I Had Christmas Down in Africa!

Today we said “Melkem Genna”—Merry Christmas in Amharic—as Jan 7 is Christmas Day in Ethiopia. Our Embassy group decided to head out of Addis and take a two hour trip to the gorge. The waterfalls we were looking forward to were not there because it was not rainy season, and the baboons we were hoping to see were not around—probably to stay out of the heat. But one of the best parts of the trip for us was our time with some of the local kids who tried to sell us baskets and hand-made cross necklaces so they could attend school. They also asked for pens. (We made sure to tell the next group to bring lots of pens to pass out!) To end this unforgettable day, we had an amazing time of worship together on the way back to Addis—such a beautiful time together!

When we got back to the Guest House, Rachel Miller showed us a song by Straight No Chaser called “The 12 Days of Christmas” that is quite funny! It has an allusion to the 80’s Toto song “Africa” which I actually downloaded on my ipod before our first trip for court. Thought you might enjoy it as well! I hope the YouTube link works—not sure since I’m trying to do it from Africa!! 🙂

Straight No Chaser – “The 12 Days of Christmas”

On a deeper note, I want to share something about being here on Christmas that I have not told many people before now. I have held onto a promise I felt God made to me a year ago—not sharing it but with a couple people for fear of putting words in God’s mouth or looking silly myself to think God would speak to me. Last Christmas, 2009, I was decorating our tree with my ipod earplugs in, listening to praise music—it was such a meaningful time for me. It was the evening of the last day of one of our fasts about our adoption and I was not hungry at all, except for the hunger I had to praise our faithful Redeemer! I was not thinking about our adoption at all at the time, and yet in the middle of it all, out of the blue I felt like God told me that we would be celebrating Christmas with our Ethiopian kids next year. What?? Really! OK, well, we’ll see what happens. Then when it was coming down to the wire, I really thought we would have the Dec 22 Embassy date and be home in time for Christmas. As time went on, I started to really worry that wouldn’t happen. I think one of the main reasons was because I was afraid God wouldn’t follow through with His promise, or that I was crazy and not really hearing His voice after all. Finally, I came to a place where I could trust Him no matter what, like Abraham with Isaac—that God would provide even if I didn’t understand how (see my earlier blog post when I finally let go of this worry).

Now I understand. We DID celebrate Christmas with our Ethiopian children! Not in my myopic thinking of having it in America, but we celebrated with them in THEIR homeland! It was such an unforgettable experience!! I had to hold tears back much of the evening of the Christmas Eve kids’ service with the children at the Transition Home. I SO wish we could publish the little pageant that they did—I have never seen anything like it and I have seen a lot of Christmas programs in my lifetime! 🙂 Rachel Miller and I kept looking at each other through wet eyes, incredulous of the moment we were sharing, in awe of God’s timing and grace to allow us to experience it, and thankful that God, in His incredible mercy, saw past our complaining and worrying and begging to get our kids sooner, in order that we could experience something “even greater than we could ask or imagine,” and so that God could be glorified!

2011: The Year of the Lord’s Favor

We passed over the ocean yesterday, passed into a new year, and are passing into a whole new chapter in our lives. When we got to the Guest House in Ethiopia (basically a hotel where we stay), I signed us in and was surprised to see the dates we were “arriving” and “departing”: 1-1-11 and 1-11-11.  It’s a year of firsts as well.  We are excited to see what God beholds for our family and our community!

As most of you know, there is some trepidation for this trip in that we never truly received “confirmation” of our Embassy appointment on Jan 5.  We were told there “should not be a problem” and that it happens that way sometimes (see our past blog entry).  We have to acknowledge in writing that we are taking a risk in coming, yet we still have to come or we will miss our Jan 5 appointment.  It is our choice, but do we really have one??

Then, right before we passed through airport security in Peoria on Friday, we got a call from our agency to tell us that there is another piece of paper that the Embassy wants that is in Ethiopia and “should not be a problem to get on Monday or so.”  So even more turmoil in the pit of my stomach.  I’m a pretty practical person, for the most part, and common sense tells us this is a “crazy” way to spend our time, energy, and money if we don’t even know for sure how things will go with the Embassy.  But we walked through security and got on the plane.

We flew up out of the stormy darkness (literally—that was the day we had tornadoes and 60 degree weather on New Year’s Eve!) and above the clouds into the beautiful sunshine.  I got my Bible out to continue in my reading in Isaiah at chapter 60.  I noticed that the sun was beaming through the window right onto the pages.  Then I read this:

“Arise shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” (Isa 60:1-3)

I thought, “Oh, that’s cool.  Thank you, God, for this special little gift of sunshine in my life, far above the storms below.”  But then I continued:

“Lift up your eyes and look about you;
All assemble and come to you;
your sons come from afar,
and your daughters are carried on the arm.
Then you will look and be radiant,
your heart will throb and swell with joy;
the wealth on the seas will be brought to you,
to you the riches of the nations will come.” (Isa 60:4-5)

Tears I wasn’t expecting came streaming down my face, as they are right now as I write this.  Who am I, that God chooses to give such specific comfort to??  Some may doubt that this was a “Word from God,” but I believe that He was reminding me of his promise that he made to me years ago and He is continuing to work out now.  He will see it through—He is forever faithful!  So I will not give in to fear or doubt him.  I will trust him, even when things don’t look like they are going like I thought they would or should.  I believe that, still in His timing, we will bring our “son home from this far land” and our “daughter in my arms”!  “Joy will radiate out of me and my heart will swell” as “many will assemble” and come to us at the airport (and later at home) after we bring our little “riches from across the seas” home forever!

Thank you, Lord for your Word of Encouragement to me!  I trust you will do YOUR will in our lives and that no one, not even government officials, can thwart your plans because, as you say at the end of this chapter in Isaiah:

“I am the Lord;
in its time I will do this swiftly.” (Isa 60:22b)

Thanks to all who are praying and following us on this journey.  May you be encouraged as well of His eternal faithfulness.  I do ask, please, that you would pray that we will find out Monday morning that all is well with the Embassy.  I will trust Him no matter what happens, but I will be able to let my heart truly live this experience better knowing that we are bringing these children home at the end of this week!  Tomorrow afternoon we are supposed to go get them and they will be with us for the remainder of our stay here in Ethiopia.  But it would hurt my heart if something went wrong with the paperwork and we were not able to keep them after they lived with us for a week!  Even if it was a matter of timing and we had to come back again, I can’t imagine how that would affect the kids, feeling abandoned once again.  So it is difficult to let my heart fully attach when there is the slightest possibility that we might not bring them home this week, and mostly difficult to think what that would do in the kids’ hearts.  I am not doubting God’s power and will, but I cannot proclaim to fully know how He will enact His will either.  Whatever happens, we pray He is glorified!

As I continued in my Isaiah reading later on another flight, it seemed fitting that I was next in Isa 61:

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…” (Isa 61:1-2)

I know these Holy Scriptures were written to the prophet Isaiah, not to the prophet Suzanne.  I know there is context to these verses that goes far beyond what we are doing in a small home in a little town in central Illinois.  But I also believe God’s Word is “living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword,” and it has pierced my heart throughout this journey. These are not words He has spoken only to the Gowin family.  It is clear all throughout Scripture that it is His divine will that His people lift up and care for the poor, the brokenhearted, and the prisoners, as in Isaiah 61 above.  God may or may not be calling everyone of His people to adopt orphans, but He IS calling everyone of them to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, invite in the strangers, clothe the needy, look after the sick, and visit and encourage prisoners who are in all types of slavery (see Matt 25:31-46).  It is my prayer that this year, 2011, will be the Year of the Lord’s Favor—that God will glorify Himself and do countless acts of justice and mercy throughout the world by working through the lives of all of His people.

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)

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.

Court Date and Garage Sale!

Last Friday was so crazy I haven’t even had a chance to post this yet!  But we got a call from AWAA for our court date!!  We are finally going to get to “touch our kids,” as our 8-yr-old boy put it!  Our court date in Ethiopia is Nov. 4 and so we fly out Oct. 31 and return Nov. 9, while Grandma comes to stay with our other three here in IL.  We will get to spend time with Aidan and Eva a few hours everyday, as well as do some sight seeing and visiting other orphanages, etc.  Families do not always pass court the first time (usually because the court wants some Ethiopian paperwork written differently), but we will have made our appearance and will not have to stay for the following court dates.   After we pass, we will return to Ethiopia again 4-12 weeks later for our US Embassy appointment and to bring our kids HOME!!!  (We are praying that is before Christmas!)  We are SOOO excited!!!

Our wonderful phone call came during our busy garage sale we had that weekend!  We explained that everything was “for donation for our adoption” and people were very generous!  We made over $1100!!  Thank you, Lord!  Our two upcoming trips will be about $5-6,000 each, so if you are interested in helping with that, please click on the fundraising tab above.

Please be in prayer for our upcoming trip and for our first meeting with our kids!  Keep watch on our blog as we will post a video of them when we officially pass court!  We will also try to journal our trip some on the blog if the internet in Ethiopia cooperates.  Pray also for all the planning and packing and thesis writing that needs to happen between now and then!  And lastly, please pray for Aidan, our 4.5 yr old boy who has the mumps.  🙁  Our hearts yearn to hold and take care of him and to love on them both!  Thanks again for being a part of our journey!


Yes, we received our referral call on Friday!!  What a surprise!  We didn’t think it would come that soon!  AWAA called to offer us siblings: a boy-4 years old and baby girl-3 months old! God had put almost those exact ages on our hearts when we applied!  They are beautiful—“button cute” as Michael says!  We can’t post pictures or any more information yet till we pass court and they officially belong to US!  🙂

Because of Ethiopian court closures in August and September during the rainy season, we probably won’t get a court date till about mid-October.  But my good friend, Deanne Mott, is already over there with her girls for a month, so she can love on them for us while we wait!  And I have been to the Transition Home and have seen how well the nannies care for and love on the children, so I am confident of our babies’ care until we can bring them home.  After we pass court (which is not always on the first try), then it will take another 1-3 months while they gather paperwork for the Embassy and we go back and bring them home.  We are hopeful to have them home before Christmas!  (What a cold winter welcome they will receive!! 🙂 )

We have a lot to do between now and then, including me (Suzanne) trying to finish a 75-page MA thesis on God’s Heart for the Fatherless in Scripture.  Please pray for 3 things:  diligence and supernatural quickness on the research and writing, health and emotional comfort for our kids while they wait, and funds to continue to come in for the rest of the adoption.  We are amazed at God’s grace and intimate hand on our lives through this whole process, and we pray He is glorified through it all!

Here is a picture of us showing our other 3 kids the photos of our new additions:

Puzzle update, family trip, & 4th of July

We met our match! Lifesong for Orphans had offered us a matching grant up to $2000 and we have received more than that in donations, so Lifesong will be granting us an extra $2000! Thanks so much to all who are supporting and praying and to Lifesong’s generosity! Here is our updated puzzle….do you see it starting to take shape??


We won’t be updating the puzzle for another 2 weeks because we will be going on a family trip to OK. The first part of our trip will be 4 days at New Life Ranch‘s Family Camp. We are excited to spend some time at the camp I worked at one summer almost 20 years ago! (Hard to believe I’m that old, I know!) There are ropes courses, zip lines into the river, archery, horseback riding, hiking, as well as family worship times and a late night outdoor movie. We are looking forward to some family bonding time away from Wi-Fi and cell service! 🙂 Soon, when our other kids come home from Ethiopia, Erin, Liam, and Maura know that there will be a bit more attention on our new kids as we bond and learn to communicate with them. So we thought it would be a good idea to spend some quality time with them now as extra reassurance of our love for them and each other. After family camp, we will go on to visit my family in OK for a few days and then head back home to Lincoln.

We hope you all had a blessed 4th of July! The kids had a great time decorating their bikes and riding in our local parade, ending with the fire truck hose down, of course! These are great memories to savor! (Please excuse the iphone photo! And, shhh, don’t tell photographer Michael–he would be appalled! Be sure to notice the hero cape on our youngest–she FLEW that day!)

Father’s Day and Puzzle Update

We had a great Father’s Day today!  Among other things, we celebrated with Frosty’s at Wendy’s because they were donating $0.50 to the Dave Thomas Foundation for every Frosty purchased this Father’s Day weekend!  Dave Thomas started Wendy’s and has a great organization that helps find permanent loving homes for children in foster care.

Here’s Michael’s new adoption/Africa t-shirt purchased through Ryan and Ashlie Fulmer‘s adoption fundraiser. (Pic taken with iphone :))  Ashlie is in Ethiopia right now with her baby boy Easton!

And here is our weekly puzzle update!  Every piece of the puzzle represents $10 that has been donated toward our adoption since we sent letters out in May.  Getting closer to Africa…..!!  (Click on the puzzle button at top right of the blog to see past updates.)


DTE today!! (“Dossier to Ethiopia”)

The long awaited important DTE date has come: 4-9-10!  Usually our agency, AWAA, sends the dossiers over to Ethiopia via FedEx, but in the email we received this morning they informed us that our paperwork will be hand delivered by some of their staff who are traveling there this weekend.  I love the idea that it will be handed over to the orphanage staff by loving, praying hands!

We are so blessed!!  I even got to do the DTE Dance with our friend and mom-in-the-adoptive-process, Deanne Mott, since she happened to be here when I got the email!  Woo Hoo!  Now to work on fundraising…… 🙂