We are going to get our kids!!!

Our year and a half adoption journey is coming to a close…..and the adventure is about to begin!!!

We leave in just two days (Fri, Dec 31) to fly to Ethiopia to pick up our kids and bring them home forever!!  No, we still don’t have “official confirmation” that Jan 5 is our Embassy date, but our paperwork has been submitted and we understand that “no news is good news.”  Apparently, the Embassy doesn’t always get official word back about the appointment until right before the date which, by then, is when most of the families are already on their way to Ethiopia!  So we are going in huge faith but are told by our agency that there should be no problem.  (However, we are still asked to acknowledge in our emailed flight itinerary to our agency that we know that we are taking a risk in going without confirmation….. 🙂 )  I am at peace though.  This is what I read in Scripture the morning we found out that we might not hear confirmation:

Depart, depart, go out from there!
…you who carry the vessels of the LORD.
But you will not leave in haste or go in flight;
for the LORD will go before you,
the God of Israel will be your rear guard.” (Isa 52:11-12)

The Lord is going before us and guarding us from behind, and He will protect us as we carry His “precious vessels” home!!

So please keep us in your prayers!  We fly out of Peoria, to Minneapolis, to Amsterdam, and then to Ethiopia—will arrive on Saturday and hopefully that day pick up our kids forever!  We will have our Embassy appointment on Wed, Jan 5, and pick up their visas the following Friday.  We will not leave Ethiopia till the next Tues, Jan 11 because staying a few extra days cut out a huge chunk of money for our airfare!  So we have several open days in our trip to play, visit museums or landmarks, visit orphanages, etc.  We are taking Erin, our 10-year-old daughter, with us.  This will be a life-changing experience for her and she is so excited!  She will also be a great help with the kids.

One other great thing about this trip is that we will get to celebrate Ethiopian Christmas with all the kids at the Transition Home on Friday Jan 7!  The other families (Smith, Hammons, Miller, Grant) and us were asked to bring Christmas decorations and stocking stuffers.  Though we were initially disappointed not to have our kids home for Christmas, we are so excited to spend Ethiopian Christmas with Aidan and Eva in their own homeland!

Our KLM/Delta flights are scheduled to get in to Peoria on Wed, Jan 12 at 3:50pm.  Our friend Gena Monical-Ruhl has graciously offered to drive the Mt. Pulaski Christian Church bus to come pick us up and bring friends and family to the airport to meet us!  So if you are interested in joining us on that glorious day, please contact me (sgowin@gmail.com) before we leave or Chantell Mills (chantellmills@gmail.com) after that.  The bus will be at our home at 2:15pm that day to gather people for the trip.  There will be some spots open on the bus, or others can meet at our home and caravan or go straight to the airport.

Thanks to everyone who has followed us, prayed for us, given to us, encouraged us, and loved on us through this long journey!  You are such a blessing!  Our biggest prayer is that God is glorified through His work in our lives and that many others are able to experience His amazing grace and redemption in their own lives as well!

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are mine.” (Isa 43:1)

Put a Red Dragon in Your Nativity Scene

© Michael Gowin

Since last year, we’ve started putting a red dragon in one of our manger scenes—that’s it in the photo above. Why? The apostle John puts a dragon in his Christmas narrative in Revelation 12.1-5:

A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.” And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. (NIV)

Our friend and mentor Bob Lowery has done this for years. Read his essay, “Christmas on Patmos,” and you’ll want to add a red dragon to your nativity scene as well.

Side note: this year our dragon keeps finding himself placed on his back some distance away from the baby Jesus. Evidently our girls have been doing this to indicate the dragon’s defeat. Our children understand what Christmas is about.

Helping Others Celebrate Christmas

World Vision Christmas Catalog  (photo © 2010 Michael Gowin)

As a kid, I loved the JC Penney Wish Book. This was the department store’s annual Christmas catalog, about half the size of their seasonal catalogs but the back half was full of toys and objects of desire for children. It would arrive at our house in the mail several weeks before Christmas and I’d spend hours and days sifting through the pages, making and revising lists of all the stuff I’d want. This is the sort of thing that helps establish the foundation for a lifetime of consumerism. As fun as this was for me, I’m hoping to keep my children from the same obsessive behavior. Thankfully, the good people at World Vision have taken a cue from the department store marketers to help turn the focus away from ourselves.

For the last several years, we’ve received and loved the World Vision Gift Catalog. It too arrives several weeks before Christmas but contains gifts for others rather than for us. You can purchase farm animals (goats, cows, chickens) for families overseas who need them. You can send girls in developing countries to school or purchase a sewing machine so a woman in a poverty-stricken nation can earn a living. You can buy warm clothes for children in cold climates or a well to supply clean water to communities which lack these basic resources.

Choosing gifts from the World Vision Gift Catalog has become a tradition in our home. In the past few years, we’ve given medicine, seeds for garden vegetables, soccer balls, bicycles, a sewing machine, and other emergency supplies. The kids always enjoy choosing gifts and use their own money to pay for them. We love that they are learning that Christmas is about more than the gifts they receive, not to mention that their simple gifts can make a huge difference in the life of someone else.

Consider giving a gift to someone through the World Vision Gift Catalog this year. Your gift might make the difference that helps someone in another part of the world live to celebrate Christmas next year.

Waiting on an Embassy Date

Waiting... © 2010 Michael Gowin

If there is anything predictable about the unpredictable journey to international adoption, it’s the waiting. While there is a prescribed path to follow—paperwork, homestudy, dossier submission, referral, court, embassy—there is no consistent timeline. After you pass one step, you learn that you’ll have a wait before you reach the next one. How long? Anybody’s guess.

Since we passed court a couple weeks ago, we’ve been waiting to learn of our assigned embassy date. It’s at that point that we’ll travel to Ethiopia again to get visas for the kids and bring them home. We’re expecting to receive word on that today or tomorrow. While we’d hoped to have an embassy date at the end of December, it’s now more likely that we’ll travel at the beginning of January. There are pros and cons to both scenarios but the waiting is hard nonetheless.

In the meantime, friends have asked how they can help. Here are a few suggestions:

Pray for us – Pray that we’re able to coordinate flights and get tickets when we need them, hopefully with seats together on the planes.

Pray for the kids – Pray that Erin, Eva, and Aidan will be healthy while we travel. Pray that they will adapt to their new lives here in the States and that they will feel welcomed and loved by their new family. Pray that Liam and Maura will do well with Grandma while we’re gone.

Pray for our friends – One of the families with whom we traveled, the Flemings, passed embassy today and will be traveling home with their new son. Two other families, the Smiths and the Laughners, learned that they passed court today and are also waiting for an embassy date. As I’m writing this, the Davidsons are still waiting for word on passing court. UPDATE: the Davidsons did not pass court today; still waiting on their MOWA letter. Please pray that these families’ cases will move through the system in Ethiopia so that God’s will may be done.

Give toward our expenses – We will likely spend around $10,000 (or more) on airfare and travel for our next trip to Ethiopia. If you’d like to help us with that, you can make a tax-deductible contribution on our behalf to Lifesong for Orphans. Please make checks out to Lifesong for Orphans with “preference Gowin #1206 adoption” in the memo and send them to:

Lifesong for Orphans
PO Box 40/202 N. Ford St.
Gridley, IL 61744

Lifesong can also accept contributions through PayPal if that’s easier. On the Lifesong donation page, scroll down and click the yellow Donate button. Remember to indicate “preference Gowin #1206 adoption” in the “Purpose” field on the PayPal form.

If you’re not concerned about the tax break, you can write us a check or contribute directly through PayPal by clicking the yellow Donate button below the puzzle pieces in the sidebar to the right.

Give a gift to help orphans and others in need – Consider giving a gift to Lifesong to help other families adopt. World Vision, an organization which we’ve supported for over 15 years, publishes a gift catalog that allows you to choose how your contribution will be used. Our family looks forward to this every year (I’ll have a post about this soon).

Thank you again for your continued interest in us and our family. We’re grateful for the ways God has blessed us through the many of you who’ve prayed, encouraged, and supported us on this journey. We hope to have news of our embassy date shortly and will share that with you all as soon as we can.

Gowin family

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Jesus has AIDS

So writes Russell Moore today (World AIDS Day) in a thought-provoking post:

Jesus loves the world, and the world has AIDS. Jesus identifies himself with the least of these, and many of them have AIDS. Jesus calls us to recognize him in the depths of suffering, and there’s AIDS there too.

World Vision is doing good work in this area. Richard Stearns, CEO of World Vision, also takes up the topic in his book The Hole in Our Gospel.

NB: Moore has also written an excellent book on adoption.