Farewell, Karyn Purvis

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Suzanne and I just learned that Karyn Purvis from TCU Institute of Child Development died today. She devoted her life to helping college students, mental health professionals, and parents learn how to connect with, love, and bring healing to children from “hard places.”

After our third adoption, Suzanne and I became trainers in the Empowered To Connect material that was developed from Karyn’s research in child development. It’s been a huge help to us and the families we’ve worked with.

I met and spoke briefly with Karen at two adoption conferences over the past few years. She was the kind of person you’d meet and, instantly, wish she were your grandmother. The world was a far better place for Karyn’s having been here, and generations of families will reap the benefits of her work.

If you parent or work with kids from hard places, please read her book The Connected Child and seek out Empowered to Connect training in your area.

One last thing: here’s a wonderful tribute from Jedd Medefind from the Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO). The post includes the video below.

The Fight for the Fatherless

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We recently watched the newest remake of the film Annie.

You know the classic story: the plucky red-haired orphan finds herself a father in the wealthy industrialist, Daddy Warbucks. In return, Daddy Warbucks learns to love the little girl and fills a hole in his heart that, previously, he didn’t know existed.

This latest version of the film foregoes the Depression-era setting for present day New York. Annie trades her scarlet locks and fair complexion for a curly brown Afro, and the Daddy Warbucks character is now Will Stacks, a cell phone service tycoon.

Despite the changes, the plot follows a similar arc with a few new songs added. Of course, the new Annie sings “Tomorrow.”

Eva has been singing that song quite a bit, too, although she’s changed the lyrics a little. She wandered into the kitchen the other day, singing:

When I’m stuck with a day that’s gray and lonely
I just stick up my chin, and win, and say–

So I joined in and we sang together:

The sun will come out tomorrow
So you got to hang on ’til tomorrow, come what may!
Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you tomorrow
You’re only a day away

And as we sang, I felt an awful lot like Daddy Warbucks. Or Will Stacks.

I’m so grateful for everything this little girl and all our children have brought into our family. But that’s the thing: adoption and orphan care is frequently portrayed as giggles and smiles, love and hugs, happily-ever-after. Like a fairy tale movie.

The families walking this path know that’s not the story.

Suzanne and I are at the CAFO Orphan Summit in Nashville now, and I attended one of Russell Moore’s workshops yesterday. It was cheerily titled, “How the Orphan Care Movement Could Wreck Itself… and What’s Needed to Avoid It.”

He cautioned that the worst thing we can do is sentimentalize orphan care. Adopting a child is not the same thing as “adopting” a dog or a cat or a highway.

Instead, we understand that adoption is at the heart of the Gospel: we adopt because we–all of us who are followers of Jesus–were adopted into God’s family. We love because we were loved first. We share a new spiritual reality: we are truly brothers and sisters.

And because adoption is at the heart of the Gospel, it is opposed by God’s enemies. The enemy hates children, Dr. Moore explained, because they represent newness of life, the promise of the future, and–ultimately–the hope of Christ. The enemy wants to destroy anything that bears God’s fingerprint, so we shouldn’t be surprised that caring for orphans will involve risk and cost and sacrifice.

Children in adoptive families and foster care families don’t want to be there. They want to be in their birth families but sin, loss, and circumstance have intervened.

It’s not an easily resolved fairy tale.

So what does caring for the fatherless really look like?

It’s expensive and it’s paperwork and it’s waiting. A lot of waiting.

It’s loss of culture, home, food, friends, and family–pretty much everything the children have known.

It’s a lot of visits to the doctor and dentist.

It’s late nights and early mornings. It’s uncertainty and frustration. It’s loving kids who have suffered trauma and rejection and loss. It’s loving them when they reject you.

Honestly, it looks like a lot of hard work. Jesus enters into our human experience the same way–why should it be different for us?

Anyone who steps into this journey knows this–or will learn it along the way.

But in the hard work and the sacrifice, in this fight for the fatherless, God meets us, often in ways we could not have expected. And there’s a surprising joy there, too.

Not everyone is called to adopt or take in foster children but we are all called to the fight. How? Bless a family who is fundraising with a financial gift. Words of encouragement go a long way. Or bring a meal. Or childcare for an evening or a weekend. We’ve had folks drop off toilet paper, milk, and paper towels at the house.

What else could you do?

Woven Together, our county’s orphan ministry, has organized volunteers to remodel family waiting rooms at the local DCFS agency and Center for Youth and Family Solutions. They also organized a drive among several churches to collect over 80 journey bags for foster children who might be suddenly uprooted from a home with nothing but the clothes they’d be wearing. The journey bags are backpacks that include a change of clothes, pjs, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a toy or book–essentials and a few special things so the kids would have something to call their own. These are great examples that involve all kinds of people in the work of orphan care.

Caring for orphans will not make your life better or easier or move you to Easy Street. The call to follow Jesus is a call to cross-bearing, an invitation to come and die. But those who are called often find themselves richer for having taken this journey.

In the Summit opening session this morning, Aixa Lopez, an adoptive mom in Guatemala (where adoption is very counter-cultural), commented about her own family’s journey, “Normal Christians do hard things; this shouldn’t be extraordinary.”

Amen.

VIDEO: Our Lifesong Story

Adoption is an expensive undertaking, especially international adoption. Expenses often run upwards of $30,000. But Lifesong for Orphans is doing a fantastic job of easing the burden for adoptive families.

We received Lifesong grants for all three of our adoptions, and the good people at Lifesong asked if they could share how God has worked in our family through caring for orphans. You can watch the video below (which was shown for the first time in public at the CAFO Orphan Summit in Nashville, TN, this week).

Besides their help with adoption funding, Lifesong (which is based in tiny Gridley, Illinois) is doing good work around the world. Please take a moment to visit their site and see how you can help them care for the children that Jesus loves.

Gowin Family Adoption from Lifesong for Orphans on Vimeo.

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Directed & Filmed by June Bae
Music: “The Father’s Heart” by Tony Anderson & “Coming Home” by Zachary David http://www.musicbed.com

 

This is what 19 years looks like

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Suzanne and I celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary a couple Sundays ago.

How, you ask?

It started with taking the family to church in the morning followed by lunch at home together (pictured above).

Then Suz took five kids to Winter Jam in Peoria for the night while I took four kids to choir at the church.

Happy anniversary, everybody!

(Suz says next year I’m taking her away. To an island. By ourselves. I hope she’s right.)

Our Adoption Story Featured on Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace Site

While we were in Ethiopia this summer, we happened to cross paths with Dave Ramsey’s video producer, Jason Crossman. Turns out Jason was staying at the same guest house while he was doing some work in the area. He and Suzanne chatted over breakfast one morning and then he asked if he could interview us. We started using Dave’s Financial Peace principles several years ago and that approach has been instrumental to our ability to afford the expenses for three adoptions.

The video was released last fall (not sure how we haven’t posted it sooner–oh, I know: we have nine kids).

You can also see the video on Dave Ramsey’s site.

A Grant, a Cruise, and a Video

As many of you know, adoption can be an expensive undertaking: international adoptions can cost $30,000 or more. That’s a lot of money, and most adoptive families don’t have that kind of cash sitting around. We didn’t and don’t.

Fortunately, we’ve come across many generous family, friends, and organizations that have helped us with the financial burden of adoption. One of those is Gift of Adoption.

With our most recent adoption, Suzanne applied for a grant from GOA. They notified us a few months ago that we’d been chosen to receive a grant, and then followed up to invite us to a fundraiser event in Chicago. So this weekend, Suz and I spent an overnight in Chicago, spoke at the fundraiser (a dinner cruise on Lake Michigan), and got to hang out with some really fine people who are helping families like ours bring children home. We had a delightful time sharing our story and were warmly welcomed by everyone we met.

GOA asked us to put together a video to introduce our family at the event. It’s shown above (also here).

We are genuinely grateful to Gift of Adoption Fund as well as Brian Knight, Lauren Monkiewicz, and the members of  the Illinois Chapter Junior Board who organized the fundraiser and invited us out for a special night–not to mention the numerous donors and event attendees. Families like ours have come together because of your vision and generosity. Thank you, thank you for what you’re doing.

By the Numbers: Quick Trip to Ethiopia

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After 4 airports, nearly 36 hours of travel, and 14,000 miles in the air, Suzanne and I are home. Thanks for all the prayers, encouragement, and support along the way–many of you walk this journey with us and we couldn’t do it without you. Seriously.

Even as tired as we are, though, we’d turn around and do it again tomorrow to get those kids here. Here’s to hoping the wait for our embassy appointment is short.

(UPDATE: For the record, the numbers above are for the one-way trip from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Springfield, IL. Double them for the round trip.)

And Now We Have Nine Children

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We passed court today so we have the pleasure of introducing:

“Tigist Michael Gowin”
“Dawit Michael Gowin”
“Solomon Michael Gowin”

We are going to talk with them today about some American names we have picked out, but for now these are their official names.

Today is still very busy–we’ll have time with the kids this afternoon and then we’ll need to pack for our flight out tonight. More details to come soon.

(Bonus: our checked bags arrived today–just in time for us to pass out some gifts on behalf of friends and then to turn around and head home tonight.)

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Tigist

 

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Dawit

 

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Solomon