By the Numbers: Quick Trip to Ethiopia


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


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.)






Whirlwind Trip to Ethiopia

In case you haven’t heard this already, Michael and I are on our way to Ethiopia today. Just 5 months after applying to our adoption agencies, and even after a two month wait for our state paperwork to come through, we are about to head to court to adopt three more kiddos! Yes, we are aware. That makes nine.

Last November, only days, in fact, after Kieran’s leg surgery at Shriners in St. Louis, I got an email that Kieran’s three younger siblings were now at the orphanage. What?!? We spent focused time in prayer and fasting about it with some close friends, and, well, here we go again…. 🙂  (You can read our original, more detailed announcement here.)

This adoption has felt so different from the others. Some sense of urgency that we don’t quite understand yet. Even the fact that the adoption pursuit began in the middle of the turmoil that was threatening to close down Ethiopian adoptions was actually another force that hastened our adoption along rather than slowing it down. We went forward, putting forth a large amount of money, taking the risk that we knew we were supposed to be doing this and that God would do what HE wanted to do.

It seems like this time around, immediately after we would finish one crisis or focused time (like after taking an intensive class on parenting kids from hard places, after K’s surgery, after we taught our first Empowered To Connect class, after renovating our home for more kids, etc.), God has dropped the next ball in our laps to juggle. At least He is not giving us everything at the same time!

So along the same pattern, we got a call late last Monday from our agency saying that we might be traveling on Friday! And then we didn’t hear for sure till Wednesday!

We were originally told that September would be the earliest we would travel since the new Pre-Adoption Immigration Review (PAIR) would take that long. However, for some reason ours went through more quickly than our agency has ever seen it happen! God has a plan, and for some reason He wants these kids home PRONTO! Maybe when it is all said and done we will understand better. Maybe not. But we continue to trust and try to enjoy the ride–even if the ride this time is a high speed roller coaster!

So if you would like to pray for us, here are our prayer points:

  • for our short time with our kids and to pass court
  • for finances to come as quickly as our adoption
  • ESPECIALLY for Kieran’s leg to heal quickly so he can go with us on our second trip in a month to bring the kids home. He really needs to say goodbye to some family that he didn’t get to before.

Thanks again for joining us on our journey! Hope you like roller coasters!

Normal Vs. Us, Episode 01: In Which We Will Fly To Ethiopia on Extremely Short Notice


International adoption brings with it a host of peculiarities: having your personal and financial doings exposed to strangers, the seemingly endless hours of paperwork, waiting, more paperwork, more waiting, travel, inevitable but awkward questions from (usually) well-meaning folks.

Today I want to highlight just one oddity–the way family plans can change dramatically and unexpectedly in just a few days.

Here’s the scene: on Monday, a husband and wife are seated at the breakfast table conversing about activities later in the week. Same conversation on Wednesday, the husband simply making sure the Friday plans are still valid.

What it looks like for “normal” families


Husband (munching on toast): What are we doing Friday?

Wife (looking at calendar): Kids are out of school at 2:00, the boys have haircuts. Then the usual–pizza and family movie night.

Husband (munching): OK.


Husband (munching on toast): So what are we doing Friday again?

Wife (distractedly): Kids are out of school at 2:00, Liam and Aidan have haircuts. Family movie night.

Husband (munching): OK.

And here’s what it looks like for families involved in international adoption


Husband (munching on toast): What are we doing Friday?

Wife (looking at calendar): Kids are out of school at 2:00, the boys have haircuts. Then the usual–pizza and family movie night.

Husband (munching): OK.


Husband (munching on toast): So what are we doing Friday again?

Wife (distractedly): The agency called. We need to leave for Ethiopia on Friday for a court appointment Tuesday. My mom’s driving up from Oklahoma tomorrow to stay with the kids.

Husband (munching): OK.

Annnnnd that’s our week, friends. For real.

Our adoption agency has said that our paperwork was moving faster than expected but you’re never really sure what that means. So we’ve been in a holding pattern for a few weeks.

And then they called on Monday and said we needed to schedule a court appointment in Ethiopia, could we check our calendar? We suggested some dates. They called yesterday (Wednesday) to confirm that we have a court appointment next Tuesday.

So Suzanne and I will hop on a plane (three planes, really) tomorrow for Ethiopia, spend a couple days with the kids, go to court on Tuesday morning, then hop on a plane to come back home Tuesday night.

No biggie.

That’s how we roll when it’s normal vs. us.

Parenting: Not For Wimps

The Creator of the universe finds parenting to be challenging:

I reached out day after day
to a people who turned their backs on me,
People who make wrong turns,
who insist on doing things their own way.
They get on my nerves,
are rude to my face day after day,
Make up their own kitchen religion,
a potluck religious stew. (Isaiah 65.2-3)

Why should we expect it to be happier, easier, or somehow different?

This post, which appeared today on the Tapestry Adoption & Foster Care Ministry Facebook page, offers a better perspective:

God does not say to us: “Clean up your mess, get your act together, straighten yourself out, act your age, and stop embarrassing me…and then you can come to me and we can have a relationship.”

Instead, he says: “I will come to you in the midst of your mess, misbehavior, immaturity, impulsiveness, disobedience, selfishness, and falling apart…and I will meet you just as you are, right where you are. But, I will not leave you there. I will gently, yet firmly, lead you toward the hope, healing, and freedom that can only be found when you are truly connected.”

May our parenting reflect more and more this life-giving, grace-filled, transformational love of a God that runs to us, even when we are still far away.

The journey is not always happy, but there is joy when you know how to see it.

State Approval!!

For those of you who have been praying for us and wanting an update:

(For those of you to whom this is new news, we are in the process of adopting our oldest boy Kieran’s three younger siblings, as they recently came into the orphanage. Yes, we know—that makes 9 children! You can read more about that here.)

We finally got state approval to adopt the siblings this week! That was the part in this process that we were most concerned about because of the number of children we will have, but we were approved!

Eva with the important papers, and one of our favorite postal workers
Eva with the important papers, and one of our favorite postal workers

So today I was able to send off our dossier (international adoption paperwork), both immigration paperwork packets (including the PAIR documents, for those of you who know what that is), and grant application packets.

It will be several months till immigration processes our paperwork and then our Ethiopian court date can be scheduled, but we are hopeful the kids will come home this fall! Who knew we would have adoptions in 2010, 2012, and 2014?? We sure didn’t! Be careful when you pray for God to lead you where He wants you to go….

Please keep praying for our family in this process and for God to provide—not only for the last half of the adoption costs (we have already paid over $18,000), but also for the slight renovations that need to be done to accommodate all of us! (I can squeeze them into the bedrooms, but we need another bathroom!)

If you so feel led, you can find out how to give a tax-deductible donation to help our family through the “adoption fundraising” tab at the top of our website.

Thank you again for all your prayers and your encouragement through this journey with us. I know they make a huge difference!

Another Gowin announcement…

Well, I always said I wanted to have a football team…..

….never in my wildest dreams did I think we would BE the entire 11-person team!! (Why couldn’t it have been tennis?!?)

Yes, those Crazy Gowins are adopting again!  But you already knew we were crazy, right? What’s three more kids???

When we found out that Kieran had three younger siblings, we knew it was a possibility that they would eventually be put up for adoption too. As much as we hoped and prayed that they would be able to stay with their birth father, though blind, only he could know how difficult it would be continue to provide for them on his own.

So now that we recently found out Kieran’s siblings were at the orphanage, how could we not pursue them? We have prayed and asked God what is best for them (other than not to have to be in this situation in the first place) and for our family, and we haven’t come up with anything other than the fact that they deserve to be together.

What would you do?? How would you answer to God on this one?

Well we are answering “Yes!”

Are we scared?


Are we going to screw up as parents along the way?


Do we wonder how the finances will pan out?


Do we wonder if we need another bathroom?


Will we need to buy a bus?


Will it be good for our kids already in our family?


Will people think we are nuts?

Absolutely!  YES to all!!!

When we wonder, we come back to these verses of Scripture:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Cor 13:4-8)

As Brandon Heath’s song “Love Never Fails” says, “Love does not run. Love does not hide.” Maybe our flesh would be tempted to run and hide from this situation, but we know God has got our backs. Jesus ran straight TOWARD people in difficult circumstances. How can we tell Him that we won’t? That we don’t trust Him enough? “Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life.” (Jn 6:68)

Once when I cried and begged God during LCU’s Christmas in the Chapel program, “Why?? Why us? Why them?”, he answered me: “Because of Your Tender Mercy.” That’s why. The end. Amen.

OK God. You’re the boss.


So how are we going to manage this??

When Jesus and the disciples fed the 5000, Scripture never praised the disciples for their budgeting and operations management abilities. It was simply ALL GOD. At this point we are way past our abilities, and our prayer is that God is glorified because people will know that ONLY GOD could be making this work!

So this time around there have been no lightning bolts from heaven, no audible Word from the Lord through people or movies as with last time. (And I am NOT going to tell you that God spoke to us through a Three Stooges movie. No, I would not tell you that. That would just be anathema.)

This is simply pure and unadulterated religion.

God has a special place in His heart for the vulnerable and alone, the orphan.

God wants our hearts to imitate His.

There are three orphans who desperately need a home and need to have at least one loss, the loss of their big brother, taken away.

We have room in our home.

We only live one life and it should be lived for Him first and foremost because what else really matters??

We have been blessed to be a blessing.

Why should we not fill every square inch of our home that God has blessed us with?


So where are we in the process?

We have prayed and fasted and asked some of our amazing prayer warrior friends to be on their knees about this decision with us over the last several months, and we have all come to the conclusion that we at least need to try our best to make this happen. However, just after we decided yes, Ethiopia began making announcements that they might shut down their adoption program. But we kept forging through, even already sending thousands of dollars toward the process, not knowing if it all would be lost. It’s God’s money in the first place, right? We can’t let a silly thing like money stop us…. (Since then Ethiopia has decided to keep the program open, but with some changes to make sure everything is safe for all involved.)

God’s hand has been at work with the paperwork and we were able to get it all done, including a new home study written with a new agency, in three weeks!! We have waited on some approvals, and then yesterday our home study was sent to the State of Illinois. After state approval (provided we’re granted approval), all of our paperwork will go to Ethiopia and we will begin the Homeland Security paperwork, etc.

We were going to wait until “after the first trimester,” after we had state approval, before we made our announcement. But we feel this is the part where we need the biggest amount of prayer so we are sharing this with you now. Passing the state will be one of our biggest hurdles because we already have a large family and we are asking to make it bigger. They are leery of this (as they should be) because they have seen many families fall apart in this type of situation. But our social worker has done a wonderful job of explaining in our home study our experience and our training, and hopefully that will prove to the state that with God’s help, we can do this!

This is where you come in. Please pray over the next month or so that our home study is approved quickly by Illinois. The quicker we get through this stage, the quicker we can get these kids in our home where they belong, and out of the orphanage.

And of course pray for finances along the way. But God “owns the cattle on a thousand hills” and money is nothing for Him! He’s got a plan, I’m sure of that part!  (You do have a plan, right God???)

Chris August’s song “Unashamed of You” can announce our news for us this way:

Everybody ought to know…
I will sing about your love
I will shout it to the sky
I will tell of what you’ve done when people ask me why
I live my life this way, I’ll say that I am unashamed of you….

Three weeks post-surgery for Kieran

So, three weeks after Kieran’s surgery…. how are we doing? Well, it is hard, to say the least. The therapy and walking on his leg is very painful. And when we tell him that both are what it will take to get better, and that the more he pushes himself, the faster he will get better and out of this contraption…. well, this all goes against everything he has learned to believe. Why would he choose pain? Why in the world would pain actually be good for you?? It wasn’t good when he first broke his leg—several times—why would it be good now?

Kieran really didn’t choose to have all these things happen to him and to have such pain. However, I’m praying on the other side of this that Kieran will understand Jesus’ love to a much greater degree, knowing that He chose to undergo all that pain on the Cross, for us! And to a much lesser degree, Mom and Dad chose to take his pain and troubles upon ourselves. We chose to help bear his burden, even though it may seem to him right now that we want him to experience pain on purpose.

I’ve heard this song “Blessings” by Laura Story hundreds of times, but now it has taken on new meaning for our family:

“We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep

We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering

But all the while You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know you’re near?
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?”

Two things I trust to be true about suffering:

1) Suffering isn’t always bad, though of course we believe it is when we are in the middle of it. In fact, when we put our trust in God, suffering actually makes us stronger.

“…we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Rom 5:3-4)

“Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” (James 5:10-11)

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (1 Pet 4:12-13)

I know that God wants to grow Kieran because He wants to be glorified through him. But we all can attest to the fact that true growth never happens easily, and we rarely welcome it.

2) God promises that He is always right beside us to walk with us in our sufferings.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of [ ____ ], for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deut 31:6)

I believe with all my heart that God is walking right beside all of us in this trial. I do admit I doubt, some days, whether we will come out smiling, but I never doubt that our Father constantly stands faithfully beside His children.


How to Help an Adoptive Family

We’re grateful for the many friends and family members who’ve supported us in the last three years as we’ve grown our family by adoption. There are tons of challenges in adoption, and we’ve learned and continue to learn new lessons about parenting and raising kids in our crazy family.

If you’ve ever wanted to help an adoptive family and wondered how best to do it, here’s a great article on Ashlee Andrews’ blog. Like us, the Andrews family has children both in the “traditional manner” as well as by adoption. Our experiences–and those of other adoptive families we know–are very similar to those described by Ashlee.

Thanks to Ashlee for her insightful post.

Kieran’s surgery update

Kieran’s surgery went well today. It took 6 hours, an hour longer than anticipated, and then another hour before he was awake enough for me to come into the recovery room with him. For a while, he was a pitiful sight—low moaning and talking about the pain when he would come in and out of his doze. But now, 5 hours later, he is more lucid, and the pain is a little more controlled. His eyes are not fully working yet, so he keeps asking if his leg is longer and trying to see it.

Remarkably, it is!


Today as I read my Bible, listened to my ipod, and perused Facebook and email, several Words of encouragement stuck out to me about Kieran’s surgery and our lives together. I am recording them here for my own sake, but feel free to reflect on the Word with me.

“You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy…. Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” (Jn 16:20, 22)

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor 4:16-18)

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Gal 6:9)

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Heb 12:2-3)

Satan tried to keep this boy down even before he was born. There are so many ways he tried to stop Kieran from glorifying God in his life, but it’s not working. Just the opposite!


Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Phil 1:6)

From life’s first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny. No power of hell, no scheme of man can ever pluck me from his hand…. Here in the power of Christ I stand! (worship song “In Christ Alone” sung by Keith & Kristyn Getty)

“You’re restoring every heartache and failure, every broken dream, you’re the God who sees, the God who rescued me, this is my story…. You’ve been walking with me all this time. (song “All This Time” by Britt Nicole)

Your glory speaks in every language across the sky to every nation. You are beauty unimagined…. Lift it up, endless praises to our God! Full of grace, full of love, that is reigning over us! You are faithful! You are worthy, God! This is who you are… You hear the cry of every broken heart… You hold the orphan in your loving arms. This is who you are! (worship song “Who You Are” sung by Kristian Stanfill)

This is just the beginning. Though it will be painful, for the first time in six years tomorrow he will walk on two legs. I have always believed God has special plans for this boy.

I wonder where his legs will take him….

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Heb 12:11)