When God Pays the Bill

When we went through the adoption process the first time, we were both working full-time and we had no children. We lived off of Jon's salary and my salary was fully used to pay for adoption expenses. We didn't need to run a massive campaign project to get our adoption fees met and we didn't need to apply for grants. In short, we felt very "in control" of the adoption process because one of the biggest hurdles in the whole thing (finances) wasn't a blaring roadblock for us. There were times that we were even prideful that we "did it on our own" and that "we didn't need any help."

Then, comes adoption #2. We knew from the start that adoption #2 would be different. We now have three children and live on one income so I can stay home with our kids. We can more than feed, clothe, and educate our children, but like most, we didn't have an extra $30,000 just sitting around in a bank account somewhere. We KNEW that God was telling us to begin the adoption process and we KNEW we had no way to make it happen on our own. But, we decided to step out. We had just enough money to pay the application fee. So we applied....and the rest, is becoming history. You can read about our extremely unexpected, crazy referral story here and a huge part of our funding journey here.

And the best part...the most incredible part...is right here in this video that we made. You can't miss this! You cannot miss what God did in just 9 days. So before you keep reading. Watch here!!!!

CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT?! I mean, how insane is that? 9 days! Just 9 days!!! All our adoption fees for our June 24th deadline were met, even exceeded. And over $10,000 of it came in in ONE day. Say what?!?!?!

How GREAT is our God!!

There is a lot of anxiety and fear and a whole lot of other things when it comes to fundraising, especially for something so huge. There are a lot of feelings and opinions on fundraising and sharing fundraisers, many of which we heard, so we were super anxious to step out, make our need known, and see how God chose to meet our need.

In one sense, we aren't surprised. But, in another sense, we are shocked. I guess I wasn't expecting God to do things so quickly. It was tempting to think, "Well, this need is too crazy. Does God really work like this? It seems like "miracles" this huge always happen to someone else's 'friend of a friend.'" And God decided to show us Himself in a real, tangible way. I can't even count the amount of times I opened up my computer to another crazy jump forward in our funding and I just cried. My kids have asked a lot in the last several days, "Mommy, are you sad? Why are you crying?" What a joy to tell them they are happy tears and what a joy to be able to tell them what God was doing in the life of our family.

When our stomachs churned with anxiety about making our need known, we were told by many friends, "Keep walking. Let others be a part of God doing something great in the life of this little boy in Ethiopia, and in the life of your family. Let others be part of God's command to care for orphans." Wow. Yes. So humbling. So very humbling. Not everyone will physically adopt a child into their family. (Sure, we feel more people, and definitely more Christians, should adopt), but not everyone will see adoption played out in their immediate family. But God does say we are to care for the fatherless. SO many friends came alongside us in the journey and quietly and gently encouraged, "Let others be part of God's work." And not only that, but they themselves were part of that work.

We are just taken back by those who have come around us during this process. The ones cheering us on, the ones asking for daily updates. The friend who prayed every time a grant application was sent out. The friend who texted ideas and brainstormed ways to get the word out. Groups of women from our church who met during the week and stopped to pray for us. The many, many church friends and friends around the country who shared our story on Facebook, announced our fundraiser, and rallied God's people to come around and make it possible for a little boy in Ethiopia to have a mom, a dad, a big brother, and two sisters. Over 5,000 people saw our story through social media. How crazy is that. To those of you, who were the hands and feet, and the social media runners of our story, we can't say thank you enough!

[Random side note: how crazy is technology. Sure everyone has their opinions about Facebook and social media, positive and negative, and especially the opinions of social media mixed with fundraising. But God doesn't limit himself, and God uses crazy things and crazy ways to accomplish His good and perfect will. God used something like social media, to quickly and efficiently, get the word out and to rally God's people to care for the orphan. Incredible! Absolutely incredible].

There was that minute, after receiving our referral, and after the agency announcing the INSANE fees due in just two weeks of acceptance, where I sat on the floor of my kitchen and I cried. I remember thinking, "God, what are we supposed to do? Is this seemingly insurmountable need a sign that this is not the road we are supposed to pursue? Are we supposed to let the referral go and wait to move on until we have the money that we need?"

But instead, God spoke to my heart and said, "This is your son. Keep moving." And over the next 9 days I saw God's love pouring out over this little boy in Ethiopia. I remember texting a friend seconds after the fundraiser was posted and saying, "It's only been 20 minutes and over $700 came in." And she said, "God is showing his love for you. Isn't it incredible?" My only response, "It sure is."

So today, 9 days and almost $20,000 later, we find ourselves asking, What if....

What if we said no because WE couldn't do it ourselves? What if we did have an extra bank account with $30,000+ in it and we were simply able to calmly, with no hesitation, write very large checks, one after the other, all on our own? What if we could have paid outright for this adoption, without even blinking an eye? Well....we would have missed out on something incredible. We would have missed out on the opportunity to truly and fully live by faith, and not by sight. We would have missed God's OVERWHELMING presence that confirmed daily THIS is what we are supposed to do. We would have missed out on putting this peg in the ground, at this point in the life of our family saying, "Here. Here is where we saw God move in a way that we never thought possible. Here is the time in our family, we saw God act personally. Here is the time where we knew, where we felt, God's abundant love for us. Here's a stake in the ground, where God confirms, you are NOT on the sidelines. You ARE destined for great things in the advancement of my Kingdom. You ARE part of something greater than yourselves. And despite everything, you ARE leaving a Gospel legacy and a mark on future generations to know and serve the living God. That's the answer to our, what if... 

What if we said no... a little, almost two year old boy, in an orphanage, in Ethiopia, might never have had the chance to belong...to know the love of a mom and dad. The love of a family.

So we thank you. We thank each and every one of you who walked beside us...who truly walked beside us....over the last two weeks. For not just giving, but for calling and texting, and stopping over, and blasting social media and your circles about the grand story that God was doing in the life of a boy in Ethiopia, and inviting others to jump on board and see God move. Because guess what...God moved. 

As one friend posted on one of my social media updates... "This is SO much fun to watch."And what an incredible thing it has been to be a part of.

One little boy in Ethiopia and one small family in Indiana are very, very loved.

Thank you, thank you. We love you!


More Incredible News? YES!!!!!!

We continue to be amazed at the incredible things that God has been doing in the last week to provide the funding we need by June 24th. There are lots of little details following in this blog post that are just amazing. They are details that cause us to praise God because He is the only one, who again, could have orchestrated something so incredible.

All along, we have been planning on applying for an account with Lifesong for Orphans. Up until a week ago we have been unable to apply because our homestudy was not completed yet and their process required a completed homestudy. We wanted to set up this account for two reasons: One, it provides a place for a tax receipt for people who donate, and two, our church offers a matching grant through Lifesong.

Last Wednesday, barely a week ago, we finally received our completed homestudy, the same day we got the official referral paperwork for our son, which also came with the very hefty bill to be paid by June 24th. We knew that getting the Lifesong account set up in time to receive a matching grant for the June 24th deadline was out of the realm of possibility. We contacted Lifesong last Wednesday, as soon as we had the homestudy in our hands, told them of our crazy, unexpected circumstances, and they told us the fastest they can process our application and get our account set up is 6 weeks. We were devastated. That was well past the time of when we needed the grant. But we began to pray and we had lots of others praying, asking the Lord to somehow make a way for us to get this account set up and the matching grant instituted all for the June 24th deadline. As soon as I got home with the homestudy, I sat down and finished off the application. We decided we were going to send it off anyway and pray for a miracle!

Well, you'll never guess what happened. I got a call yesterday afternoon saying, "Hi Rachael, this is Lifesong. We are calling to let you know we've processed your application and you qualified for a matching grant of up to $3,500 and your account is being set up as we speak." I was speechless. For real? Are you kidding me? I about cried on the phone! They were so excited for us and said this never happens, that the earliest they have ever been able to set up accounts is 6 weeks. Ours was up in 5 days from sending our application. 5 days people. Not 6 weeks. I got an email this morning with our link and the official "Your account is live." THIS IS INCREDIBLE.

This is huge for our June 24th deadline. We will receive a matching grant from our church of up to $3,500 and another couple from our church offered to match up to $500. So that means, the first $4,000 of donations to Lifesong will be matched for a possible total of $8,000. That is amazing!!!!! This is only possible because of getting this Lifesong account and just a week ago we were told that it wouldn't be done in time!

Isn't God amazing?! He loves our son, all the way in Ethiopia, way more than anyone else, and He longs for him to be home with his forever family. Can you believe the things he is orchestrating for this precious little soul that He created? We are overwhelmed with thankfulness for the story, for his story, that we get to tell our son throughout His entire life. We are praying that or son will look back on his life and see God's hand over and over again.

So a few logistics...
1. Yes, we are still able to receive donations through our YouCaring fundraising site that has been our primary funding source from the start of our adoption earlier this spring, up until this point. However, we do prefer that any new donations be sent to the Lifesong account if possible.
2. We are close to our June 24th funding deadline. We have a little over $10,000 still needed. The goal amount you will see on the Lifesong account reflects the remaining June 24th need as well as our travel, plane flights, and in-country adoption expenses once we land in Ethiopia.
3. Donations of $50 or more will receive an automatic tax receipt. If you would like a tax receipt for a donation between $1-$49 that is definitely possible, you would just need to request it.
4. Please feel free to share our story and all the ways God is working in our family and in the life of a little boy all the way in Ethiopia!
5. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us!!!
6. We've changed the YouCaring address to our Lifesong address on our previous blog post and will do that on our Follow Us To Africa Facebook page as well! So sharing our original blogpost about our story will contain the new donation link! So no worries there!

Here's the link to our Lifesong account! God is so good! 

We love you!
Thanks for walking with us!


The Story You've Been Waiting For

The details. The story. The crazy ways God has been working in the life of a little boy in Ethiopia and a small family in Indiana.

Ready for it? It's kind of a novel and Jon will tell me, "No one is going to read that. It's too long. They will skim."   Well, that's okay. People can skim. Yes, I'm writing for the millions of people who asked for the story, but ultimately, I'm writing out the details for myself, because I want to remember them forever. :)

As most of you know, we were pursuing to adopt from the Burundi, Africa pilot program. How did we land on Burundi? Well, lots of reasons.... Our hearts are Ethiopia. Always have been, always will be. Ethiopia has always been the plan for adoption #2, even before Mekonen came home. But the process in Ethiopia has changed. It's gotten very long and many, many agencies have pulled out of Ethiopia for lots of reasons. For a couple years we had been keeping our eye on two amazing agencies that were still working in Ethiopia. Both were committed to Ethiopia and its children for the long haul. (And no, this does not mean through just adoption, but through family preservation, sponsorship, and keeping kids in Ethiopia if at all possible). We are super picky about agencies, we over research (although I don't believe there's such a thing), and we look at a lot more about an agency and its work than just adoption.

So over a year ago, we decided to start seriously beginning the adoption process again. Mekonen has been longing for a sibling who "matches" him for quite some time. We've always wanted to adopt again and we knew the next child would also have brown skin. We have been following international adoption, and specifically Ethiopia's international adoption process for years, ever since Mekonen came home. We were well aware that there were only a few agencies still working there, and we were well aware that the process has changed quite a bit. We also knew it was a very long process (like 3-5 years). SO... over a year ago, we contacted the two really great agencies we knew to still be in Ethiopia. We were open to an older child (not just a baby) and were also open to special needs. Some programs were still accepting families for older and special needs children so we didn't think it would necessarily be a problem. But, to our deep sadness, both agencies were not taking any new families. They were still in Ethiopia. They were still committed to Ethiopia for the long haul, but they weren't taking new families because their waiting family list was already really long. Even for older and special needs children. We were devastated.
We cried. We grieved. Ethiopia is our heart. Our son is from there. We are very connected to our Ethiopian community here in Indy. We just couldn't imagine not doing another adoption from Ethiopia. We took a few months, prayed, and began researching our options. We checked other Africa countries as well as domestic foster to adopt. A few of the other open African countries didn't meet our family birth order (by way of their available children), and at the time, there were no foster to adopt situations that would fit our current family dynamic.

Then, one day, another agency we had began researching suggested their Burundi, Africa pilot program. They thought we would be a great fit for a pilot program because we had already adopted, we were used to the ups and downs of international adoption, etc. A pilot program basically means that the country is brand new to international adoption, so there's bit more risk involved and you just don't know how the process will go. We prayed about it. The program qualifications fit our family. It wasn't Ethiopia, but it was east Africa. We knew that if God had a child in Burundi that he wanted to join our family, that God would give us a love for the country of Burundi and its people. Our conviction that God wanted us to begin the adoption process never waivered, even though our hearts were sad about Ethiopia. So we started to walk and then kept on walking.

We began our homestudy this past spring and forged ahead with a plan to wait to be matched with a 5 year old boy from Burundi. We applied to the Burundi agency, we went crazy gathering documents for our homestudy, and met regularly with our social worker to complete all the necessary steps. We waited to pay the very large Burundi agency fee, for whatever reason. It just didn't feel right. I chalked up the hesistancy in my heart to be the fact that this wasn't Ethiopia. But we felt SO unsettled about that first very large, non-refundable payment. So unsettled that we avoided it for the entirety of our homestudy process, which is almost impossible to do. But alas, we succeeded. And boy are we soooo glad we did!!!!

Fast forward through the crazy paperchase months with three small children, to Monday, May 18th. I was sitting in the air conditioned car at Mekonen's baseball game talking to our case worker with the Burundi agency. We were discussing the recent political events in Burundi and the upheaval over elections and how Americans were asked to leave the country. This wasn't necessarily alarming. It's often expected to have issues around elections, but I was concerned because something in my heart just did not feel right. Again, I chalked it up to my emotions and heart strings over Ethiopia. Our case worker with Burundi was not concerned and reassured us that we could continue moving forward with Burundi. I hit the "end call" button just feeling sad.

And here's where life changed....

The phone rang again before I could even put it down. A Washington state number was going across my cell phone screen. I thought to myself, "Who on earth is calling me from Washington state?" And then I instinctively did what I never do when I don't know the caller, I picked up the phone.

Me: Hello?
Alicia: Hi, is Rachael there?
Me: Yes, this is her.
Alicia: Hi, Rachael, this is Alicia from Children's House International
(my heart skipped a beat)
Alicia: No, I'm not kidding. I have a little boy here I want to tell you about.

(Break for background: Children's House International (CHI) is one of the two most trusted agencies still working in Ethiopia. They were one of the agencies we've been keeping our eye on for a couple of years to adopt with in the future. We talked with them OVER a year ago when they sadly confirmed their program would not accept new families, which meant Ethiopia was off the table for us. She told us in a couple conversations to follow way back then, that if they ever came across a referral that no one in their waiting family list was open to, that they would give us a call. I thought to myself, yeah right. That would never happen in a million years. But I said, "ok. that's fine." After that conversation, Alicia apparently scribbled my name and phone number down on a piece of paper and stuck it to the side of her computer. That post-it note has been there for over a year).

(So back to the phone call on May 18th).
As soon as I heard her name and the agency, I KNEW what she was calling about and I simply could not even believe this was actually happening. She went on to say, "I don't even know if you ended up starting the adoption process somewhere, if you have already adopted again, or if you are even still interested in adopting, but I have a healthy little boy who turns two in July and I have no families for him. My mouth dropped and I said, "How on EARTH do you have a referral for a toddler boy and not one family?" She went on to explain how their program has not accepted new families for a very long time due to the wait in Ethiopia and the long process. They did not want to accept new families and have them waiting for years. So they "closed" their program to new applicants and slowly over time, matched the families they had. Every family in their Ethiopia program was matched except for two. CHI offered this boy referral to both families and both families said no because they wanted to continue waiting for a girl. Alicia went on to explain, "We have literally JUST re-opened our Ethiopia program to a very, very limited number of new families. But the problem is that new families would have to wait months to go through their homestudy, get approved, etc. And this little guy doesn't need to wait any longer than he already is doing to. I don't even know if you have a homestudy done, or what your plans even are. But I saw your name on this post-it note on the side of my computer and decided to give you a call."
I said, "You aren't going to believe it, but we are DAYS, literally days away, from a completed, signed, and notarized homestudy. She said, "You've got to be kidding me." (We both said this A LOT that conversation. Haha). We chatted some more about how we were pursuing the Burundi program and planning to request a 5 year old boy. I told her this phone call changes everything though and on top of it, he's from Ethiopia! I asked if she could send me his file. She said, "Ok, here's the deal. Go home. Talk to your husband about a two year old. Because you need to decide first if you want a two year old because once you see his little face, you're going to have a two year old." Ahhh!!!! I raced home and was about busting at the seems to tell Jon. I wasn't able to talk to him until a couple hours later because people were at our house when I got there. After they left, I ran out to the garage and I blurted out, "Children's House International called. A little boy. From Ethiopia. He turns two in July." Jon turned around and said, "Are you serious?" Then I gave him all the details and the lo-down of how on earth we got a call for a referral from Ethiopia. We talked. We cracked up (like how is this even happening)? And we talked over the details and the change of plans to a two year old instead of a five year old. We talked about our kids, the dynamics of their personalities. I called and talked to my parents, and talked to my sister (who adopted and works in social work and has good thoughts on situations like this). And hands down, we came to the conclusion, that this is exactly what we are supposed to do.

You see, we aren't adopting to get the "perfect child" to fit into our existing family. Yes, because we have to put something down on paper, we chose a 5 year old boy so he'd be close in age to Mekonen, and we had hoped for them to be buddies growing up. But the more we talked, the more we discussed our kids and their personalities and their expectations of this "new 5 year old sibling" the more we felt like this younger child was a better fit for our family. After all, we aren't adopting just to mold our family into the perfect ages and genders we've always wanted. Our main desire to adopt is to give a loving home to a child who needs one. And here is a child, who has been presented to us that needs a home. No he's not five, but he fits in with our family birth order, and he needs a mom and a dad. And bonus, he's from Ethiopia! I couldn't even wait until the next morning to tell the agency YES, so I emailed and told her, "YES!!!!! We are a COMPLETE and ABSOLUTE YES!!!!!!!!"

CHI is in Washington so they are three hours behind. I could not wait until 12 noon to call. At literally 9:02 am their time (enough time to sit down in her desk chair), I called and said, "Hey Alicia, did you get my email? We are absolutely 100% a YES for this little boy." She was excited. We were ecstatic.

We received the unofficial referral the next day. I was at lunch with a friend and spent the entire day, and lunch, hitting refresh on my phone email app, just waiting, and waiting for his little face to come through. And finally, around 4:00PM the most darling little thing came to my inbox. I pulled over on the side of the road so I could look at his sweet face. Oh mercy, he is gorgeous.
(We can't show his face online or announce his name online until we pass court)

And the rest is becoming history!

For the next several weeks leading up until now, we paid beginning agency fees, did new applications, and waited for our notarized homestudy and all that happens with it once it's out of our hands. We couldn't announce our referral yet, but I stared at his pictures all day, they were already framed and on the mantle, and we talked about it with the kids all the time and prayed for him every day.

Then finally, this past Wednesday, we got the official referral papework and were given the green light to announce our little guy. But THEN....THEN enters the panic. Along with the paperwork, we were given a deadline of 14 days for ALL remaining adoption fees to be paid. My stomach dropped and filled with knots, and I'm not sure any of those knots have subsided yet! Ha! Because we literally jumped over a year ahead in the process, ALL our fees are now due because all fees are due by the time a referral comes (except for travel and in-country stay). However, we weren't planning on a referral for another year, so we planned on continuing to save money, work our extra side jobs, and fundraise. So when our adoption process moved up an entire year, we found ourselves in a complete bind with a remaining $16,000 to fund in just 14 days. We prayed. Oh how we prayed. And I cried. And Jon reminded me to trust God who clearly orchestrated the insanity of events to bring this child in need of a family, right in front of us. We KNOW this is the road God wants us to walk. We KNOW it. So we reached out. Reluctantly at first, but we reached out, asking friends and family to come around this child and our family, and help us bring him home.

 We cannot express enough our thankfulness for how God is working out the remaining $16,000 to complete our adoption fees. I know people say things like this all the time, "There are no words to describe how thankful we are." But really, there just aren't. Since Wednesday evening we've watched funds come pouring in, the generosity exploding through the roof. I can't tell you how many times I've opened my computer and simply began to cry over the outpouring of love that is being shown to our family and to a little two year old boy, waiting in Ethiopia to come home to his family.

So what happens from here?
We have 11 days left to gather the remainder of our adoption fees. Once those are paid, our case will proceed through the long Ethiopian court process. Our agency is projecting a 12 month wait from the time our fees are paid until he is home. Have they seen cases go quicker? Yep. But on average they are seeing 12 months. And boy oh boy, are we going to pray we are out of that average and this little guy somehow flies through the court process and is home faster than we ever dreamed possible. I look back at our story and think, "This was impossible. And God did it. So maybe He will do this to." And if not, that's okay too, we will welcome him with open arms in 12 months.

Friends, family, will you pray for us? Please pray that God continues to provide the remainder of our fees in just 11 days? Please pray for our son- for his heart, his health, his well-being. That God will sustain Him, and that even now, God is drawing him to His heart. Please pray for an extra-ordinary, crazy fast court system that brings him home sooner than 12 months.

Thank you, THANK YOU, for walking this journey with us. Thank you for being part of our son's magnificent story, being written by Creator-God Himself.

If you feel led to donate, please visit our donation site here:

Our website accepts any donations, but I wanted to write and also let you know of a puzzle piece fundraiser we've been doing for quite awhile! This 500 piece puzzle will hang in a double sided glass frame in our boys' bedroom, but it can only be completed with YOUR help! Donation is $10 per puzzle piece! We will write your name on the back of your piece. Once the puzzle is completed, our son will have a completed puzzle with all the names of the people who have helped bring him home.
Only ONE person's name per puzzle piece! So buy a piece for each member of your family, or maybe one for each of your grandchildren, or whatever else you can come up with! If you want to get in on the puzzle piece action, when you donate, leave a note saying how many puzzle pieces and whose names are to be written on each piece! We cannot WAIT to see all the people God uses to bring our son home, piece by piece!

And most importantly, please SHARE our story with everyone you know! We've got 11 days to get this ball rolling!