Saturday, April 2, 2011

How Do You Tell Your Parents...

...that your heart's desire is to move their precious grandchildren....TO AFRICA!?! It was bad enough when we took the two we had at the time 1,000 miles from New Hampshire to Illinois. That move was in 1996 and it was "supposed" to be for 2 years. Fast forward to 2011 and we are still here!

Here is the slightly edited version of how I told my life is an open book - why not share it?!

Mom & Dad,

I have been meaning to call you - but- I have an average of 10 kids in my house now...ranging from 7 weeks old to 20 years old....since it is Spring Break. Before that, I landed home with only 9 days to tell Pete all about my trip before he left. He was gone for 12 days and I was single parenting (with the amazing help of Ali and her sweet boyfriend, Chris) two under 2 and my brood. Add to that the fact that I was staying up late to catch Pete online (8 hour time difference) and getting up early with infants & toddlers. AND....I was finishing out my job - YAY!!!

I don't even know where to start. Maybe I will just start with what I know Dad will say: "I am not surprised at all."

I suppose it makes the most sense to work backwards. We are praying and strongly suspecting God is throwing open doors for our family to move to Ethiopia in the next 18-24 months. We have tried hard to view it as the natural, emotional, hill-top reaction to two amazing, life-changing trips to a world so different from everything we know here. There are three Smith hearts stuck in Addis Ababa. There is no where else I would rather be right now. Pete and Ali wholeheartedly agree. There is so so so much to consider and figure out - but - we are trusting God BIG TIME on this. He is blowing us away sending people to answer our questions before we even ask them. Let me see if I can answer some of the obvious....

Money? We will have to raise support and, I would love to say that would come from Christians through churches, BUT....ha! Individual Christians - sure..maybe....hopefully. However, we are meeting with a dear friend of ours who may offer us the opportunity to return to the states for 10-12 weeks each year to WORK to raise what could be well over half what we would need to live on annually. They provide these opportunites specifically for pastors & missionaries. (ACK! We would be missionaries?! Pete used to bring up that subject before kids and I would CHANGE IT!)

Medical? I spoke to a woman who is already living there. She told me about her international medical policy - said it was non-negotiable! (We know several Americans who live there right now....God keeps crossing our paths!) We would plan to have the kids go for annual doctor & dentist...and scoliosis & eczema & Crohns...visits while we are in the states. I did have to take a couple trip members to the hospital while I was there. That is another story! Sorta funny, but not really. Anyway, I got to see the medical care available to Americans - and what it costs - and it is not bad at all. My friend has already found a great dentist from Germany...since her husband had a tooth issue. I guess, bottomline: Do we trust God? It IS a fairly modern, large city. People DO live and breathe there - including Americans. I will admit, this was my last a Mom.

School? Ok...God has a sense of humor. I may homeschool the little kids. We have friends who are going in August and the wife dreaded homeschooling - but her daughter did not get into the American school there. I told her she could school MY kids and I would school hers...then it would be PRIVATE school, not homeschool. Either way, we may put them on a waiting list for this highly recommended school. We are hoping Ali and Kane will come with us and attend the Youth With A Mission school there in Addis to complete the Discipleship Training School. It is something I would have thought they might like even before this - lucky for us, there is a local branch. Otherwise, they can attend in another location. The program is cool...12 weeks of classes and 12 weeks in the field working in evangelistic outreach somewhere in the world. I love the thought of them doing it together! Their courses can be applied to a degree through the school the program is affiliated with - so that is a plus.

What the heck?! This is probably the #1 question. We have a heart to work with the street kids and the children who age out of the orphanages. I thought I would go there and get my heart set on toddlers, maybe even My heart was captured by the people. The old raisin ladies - the one who cried tears of joy when I hugged and kissed her...and would not let go...telling me with gestures that she would see me in heaven. My precious translator told me people rarely pay attention to her - much less hug & kiss her. The leper men - I love these men! I know I could not work in a nursing home here in the US...but I was so blessed to be with these men. The JOY! No fingers, feet half gone & missing noses...dancing & singing & blessing us. The children...their love and generosity challenges me. They light up just because we smile at them...even if we have nothing more to offer than hugs & kisses. The ache? The older kids. The children who live in orphanages and know they will not be adopted. The kids who can't even cry anymore because they miss their dead mothers too much. The boys who have to move into adulthood with little or no guidance. The young man who told me that - until he was able to call me Mom - there was never ever anyone in his life who cared what happened to him, much less truly loved him.

What will we do there? We hope to work in conjunction with orphanages - like a nice catholic orphanage run by THE most delightful nuns - to bridge the gap for the kids as they "age out." We are not exactly sure what this will look like YET - but God is working overtime to connect us with like-minded people HERE and in Ethiopia....strong Christians who have a burning passion for the same kids! 
There is a man Pete and I both met whose heart is pure and he is so sold out to Jesus. We will definitely consider working with him. That angle got very exciting just the other day because a dear friend of mine - whose husband I knew led short term missions trips to Ethiopia - told me they are going together TOMORROW and they suspect God is calling their large family to move there and work with this man and his ministry. There is something HUGELY reassuring to find out that sound, strong Christians....who are OLDER than us....might be there for us to do life with!

So much of this is still up in the air....but....we have such a peace about it. We want God to use US to love on people there and to show them make a difference in their earthly AND ETERNAL lives.
For FUN - and to further reach children (and their families) - I want Pete to consider starting a softball/baseball little league. They know OF baseball, but no one plays it and several of the people we talked to wanted to learn. We even sent a bat bag full of "supplies" to one of the driver/translators. He is a strong Christian man who loves the children...and they love him. (One of Ali's favorites by far - he looked out for her!) He said he attempted to play with some kids and some Americans the other day. They had a blast - but he said they need PRACTICE....and Pete. (I thought that was cute!) Basketball is another sport they are intrigued with. We have two friends there who play on a league that pays them a small amount. I would love to see Pete - with help! - start something for the kids that would be a Christian outreach. Our kids play Upwards here and it is PHENOMENAL! You have no idea how many hearts you might reach with a little fun and a loving coach. (This is TOTALLY Pete's sweet spot!) I will send you a story about a man who is changing lives all because someone waved at him and spent the day playing Frisbee with him.

What about right now? Well, we are not discounting several factors....and the timing is exciting! We do not think it was a coincidence that Pete and I BOTH were handed FREE trips to Ethiopia...and only 9 days apart. Add to that Ali's trip. We only sent out a "PLEASE PRAY" letter and so much money came in from so many unforseeable sources.

I would not have guessed that my job would be eliminated due to restructuring - yet - I was given severance pay through July. Our 3 year house lease is up in June and Kane graduates in May. Our next child is not even close to entering high school yet - whew! Hezekiah's adoption should be final within the next year. We have a car payment until this October....but, after that...we are completely debt-free. We are on the hunt for a rental home that is considerably cheaper than this place....and I think this poor housing market may work in our favor. We will have a chunk of money from Pete's 401K to hold in an emergency fund. (Gotta be somewhat responsible!) PLUS, the opportunity I mentioned above may start in a smaller form this summer which would enable us to HOPEFULLY start to SAVE!

We are fully aware we will be in Satan's crosshairs. We will be soliciting prayer warriors, for sure! We are actually hoping to be able to do a trial run of 2-4 months. Pete would have to use all his vacation time - and/or - ask for a short leave of absence. There is a company allowance for leaves...just not sure if our REASON would quailfy. Our friends did this and they thought it was invaluable. You really need to live there - as opposed to visiting or vacationing. We may find it is not for us....but we want to go into this with our eyes wide open....with His eyes.

Are we CRAZY?!?! Ummm....YES! Completely! We are crazy in love with the people there. The babies, the toddlers, the school kids, the teenagers, the 20-nothings (my favorites!), the adults who have fully embraced us, the old, the sick, the's a package deal, for sure. Pete even fell in love with a PROSTITUTE! Okay....actually a FORMER prostitute. She calls him her brother and he changed her life just by listening to her. She was pulled off the streets and trained to be a hairdresser to free her from that give her children a hope & a future. There are women who rent 3-sided rooms for $1.20 a day that are slightly bigger than the set of bunk beds they house. These women put their children on the top bunk while they "work" the bottom bunk. These women GREW UP on the top bunk...and so did the men they "service." No one should live this way. We want to offer ourselves to God to change things like this. It is not really all that hard. Someone just has to care...has to bother.

We have an "adopted" 22 year old son in Ethiopia. This young man, Tesfalem (which means "hope for the world") is amazing. He was orphaned at 3 months old. His sister was only 2. They have both grown up in government orphanages - they aged out. (I hate that term...maybe because I can see the faces of it.) He has everything in the world to be bitter and angry about - his life was not fair from the very start. Here is what he wrote today on his Facebook account: "Who is lucky that much i am? I don't care i don't have anything .b/c she is more than things .and she created incredible feeling in my heart after 22 of long meaning less years .don't ask me about it b/c i can't explain and u can't expect . Love you mom. And all my family members (pete,ali, ...............) LOVE YOU ALL"

If being Mom to a 22 year old can change a life...I am in. He asks nothing of us. Just wants to be loved by a mom...and a dad (Pete met him, too!). He was so touched that Pete was asking about the details of his life and what we might be able to do to help him that he could not explain his feelings to me in English. I had him write it out in Amharic & I had it translated. Raw. He was pretty emotional that someone would even think of his needs - much less his wants - and desire to do something to help. He said even if we never ever did anything FOR him, he would love us forever for thinking of him and caring about him. Beacuse he is our son and we love and care for him, we are helping him out a bit financially. Now - for the first time ever, EVER - at 22 and 24, he and his sister have a safe place of their own. I cannot begin to imagine. He sent me photos - he is so happy, so relieved to be able to take care of his sister. He is a good kid. God saw fit to raise up a young man of amazing character - SOMEHOW?! - and we are reaping the blessing. He and Ali hit it off like brother and sister and it was incredibly hard to say goodbye at the airport. Truly like leaving a child behind.

I am telling you all this to let you know that we are in awe of the opportunities to give so little, yet do so much. We have been given SO much and we have used it to amass what matters so NOT AT ALL. We are thankful that God is bringing us to a place in our lives where we truly WANT to let go....and go.

There are so many factors in this. God has been pulling us down this path...and I do not discount that losing the house, disrupting the adoption, etc were all part of the humbling process. I would not trade any of it. We want to wait on Him and follow Him and He is giving us peace and patience....and excitement as we watch things unfold.


Okay....did ya know?! Or are you having to take a heart pill? I love you beyond words and I will be FOREVER grateful to you BOTH for the legacy....if not for YOU and your faith...where would I be now? I could "blame" you for this , but I prefer to see this as a continuing legacy. If you want to know what is swirling in my brain, read "Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream," by David Platt. WOW! His book did not CREATE this desire - only confirms it!

With a smile,

Lori Smith


“Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and screaming ‘Woo hoo – what a ride!’”


Jenn said...

I can't wait to watch the Smith family go, Go, GO!!! I have waited for these same doors to open for our family, but so far it's not meant to be. But, I will say this...I think I'm as EXCITED for you as I would be for us. And HELLO!!?? I will be COMING to visit as often as I can. I will be one of your prayer warriors, I will help with fundraising, will do the dirty work when I can join you...whatever I can do to get you guys there and being effective in the lives of our beloved Ethiopian brothers and sisters. We share the same heart you and I, and I am OVERJOYED to watch this journey unfold for you.
So, so, so much love sister.

Anonymous said...

Love love love this! I can't wait to come visit you guys! I wish I could do the same. Maybe after Jamie takes a trip there he will understand my heart. I will be praying that your journey goes smoothly!


Traci Weldie said...

We are so happy for you! Loved reading this and I can't wait to see how God works out all the details. And then, we'll be sure to visit ;)

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