Wednesday, August 31, 2011

my heart forever

I've been wondering what to write for days now.  I'm sure a lot of what I am going through is culture shock.  My life has changed so drastically.  This is all probably normal.

The thing is, I'm seeing things.  I was standing in our very lovely grocery store the other day, I was alone for once.  The music was a pleasant pop culture tune.  The lights were perfectly shining on well placed food and items throughout the store.  Then I had this moment, where I saw the kids I left behind.  They were with me, or I was with them.  They were holding my hands, asking to be held, standing close.  They were smiling.   I was surrounded by such opulence feeling stunned by their poverty, stunned by their joy.  Not only the children, but the women who carry heavy loads on their backs everyday.  Bent over, trudging through the dirt, the mud, the dust, the rain.  The women who will praise God for the strength He gave them for the day to haul food for one dollar, for fifty cents.  Their humbling presence stood around me.  I felt so silent in that moment.  Standing in the store, surrounded by so many beautiful souls.  I could barely breath.  Their beauty, their suffering left me speechless.  It turned the material surrounding me, into a breathtaking reality, and I was real again, for a moment, seeing what truly mattered.  Then they left.  And I was alone, trying to remember.

Another day we were in the car, Mike was driving.  I looked over to the sidewalk.  And it happened again.  I saw a man.  He was missing his lower legs.  He was crawling along the sidewalk.  Then he was in congo, and I was with him.  He was crawling in mud, in dirt, in trash.  With a dignity that dares anyone to feel pity for him.  I look into his eyes and am told to never forget what I have seen.  Never forget how he lives, how the rest of the world lives.  Never forget.  Never give up fighting for change.  For basic dignity, for basic human rights.  For love and compassion.

I recently watched a movie.  About food.  It was depressing and I basically didn't think I could eat anything again after watching it.  But in the end of the movie, it reminded us that we can do something simple to change the world.  It is in the personal choices we make every day, how we spend our money, what we choose to buy, and how we treat others.  We can make a difference.

I often think of the children in the orphanage.   They are not far from my thoughts.  I struggle when I look at the prices of living in the U.S.  When I know that formula for a baby for one month costs $70/month.  When I know a salary for someone working in a village may be $40/month.  Somedays, I want to forget it all.  I want to buy something without thinking about them.  I want to forget.  But then I remember when I forget, joy flees and discontent comes.  When I remember those I left behind, the opposite happens.  I remember little faces of joy, and I am given joy.  I remember incredible courage and strength, and I am given courage and strength.  I remember the harsh reality of life with a broken body in a developing country, and I am granted humility.  Most of all, I am given grace, gratitude, and life. And I learn about true and real love. As I make choices everyday in my personal life, as I give, I am also given so much.  So, I pray I never forget those left behind, those quietly suffering and living around the world.  I pray that I never become so comfortable that I would choose this comfort over a life well lived and given in love to others here and around the world.  Especially in a very small area of the world, hidden in the green mountains, where I'm afraid I have left a bit of my heart forever.


walking to the orphanage

Would you consider sponsoring a child today?  Here are the children who still need sponsors.  And here is our website, where you can set up a monthly donation.  
Thank you.  


Thursday, August 25, 2011

on beauty



Photos from my last visit to the orphanage July 2, 2011




Sifa, meaning "praise"

Sandrine and Leblanc

Sifa, helping Chantal take her first steps

Gloire*, falling asleep on the Tumaini manager's knee

Chikurru and Chito, the sweet twin boys who are miracles

The director of the orphanage is playing a game with the older children

Nyota getting hugged by a mama 

Baby Gloire getting held by a mama

Noella, Jacob and Moise learning to sit on Bumbos donated by friends of the orphanage

Ganza, playing ball

Sweet lovely Sabina, much loved

Sandrine, playing ball

Leblanc with my beautiful cousin, Cammie (who is also his sponsor)

A mama with one of the two big bags of awesome cloth diapers and covers that were donated  from friends in the states.  

My lovely mama with Noella

Esperance*, one of the new babies to come to the orphanage

Safari, the oldest child in the orphanage, watching over a little one



Chito Wambili*, beauty


*The children marked with an asterisk are ones who still need sponsors.  Are you interested in sponsoring one of these children?  Please visit our website and follow the donate link.  Also, send me an email (my email is on the top right of this blog) to let me know what child you are going to sponsor.  Each child needs two sponsors at $25/month or one at $50/month.  Thank you.  











Wednesday, August 24, 2011

the difference

This is sweet Muholeza, when I first met her and then a year later.  The biggest difference in her life? Love and food.  Extra mamas to love on her and to take care of her, just to simply hold her.  Tumaini provides extra staff for the orphanage.  And milk.  Tumaini provides formula for the newborns and powdered milk for the older children.  Life saving milk.  Please consider a sponsorship of one of the children still waiting, or consider a one time gift to help us off set our monthly needs until we are at full sponsorship.  Or consider helping contribute to the school fees of the older children.   Please check out our website for information on how to help and pass it (or my blog) along.  Thank you!


Muholeza, age 4 3/4 years old, is fully sponsored.  

Monday, August 22, 2011

Immediate needs

I don't talk about the older kids a lot on this blog (yet), but there are 81 children that have aged out of the orphanage (they age out at age 5 years old) and then move to foster homes (sometimes these are extended family member homes).  The orphanage pays their school fees and occasionally tries to help with food for the family.  The children go to different schools in the Kaziba territory.  There are three trimesters for all the children.  The first trimester (starting in September) has been paid for, but not the uniforms and notebooks.  The children are not allowed to start school without uniforms and notebooks.




Would you consider helping us pay for their uniforms and notebooks with a one time donation?  Some of the children have sponsors who are already contributing towards the school fees, uniforms and notebooks.  Most do not have sponsors.   A uniform and notebook for each child can cost between $15-20.



The other immediate need is for sponsors to help cover the formula costs of all the newborns coming into the orphanage.  If you can't be a sponsor right now, would you consider a one time donation to help us cover our monthly formula costs?  (It costs $70/month just to feed one newborn full strength formula!).  Follow this link.



Thank you!

The photos are of two of the older children (Victoire had to have two pictures as he wanted to show me his teeth :) who grew up in the orphanage and now live in foster homes.  They came last summer to help hold and play with the little kids.  We helped the orphanage be able to do this by providing the money for their food.  We did it again this summer.  


Thursday, August 18, 2011

"I don't talk to people who aren't white"

Racism, prejudice, judgment, hate, ignorance-it all exists everywhere.  Yesterday, it existed at the new park we went to in our little new town.  Hard, hurtful words spoken by a small boy who didn't understand what he was saying.  Spoken to strangers who were brown and not white like him.

I don't know how equipped I am to handle racism.  I'm white and I grew up in a little town full of white people.  I lived in Africa.  Living in Africa changed me, taught me, humbled me, but I have so much to learn.

I pray that from a humbled heart comes graciousness that my children will also learn.  My mom taught me so much about grace, gratitude, generosity, compassion, and love, just by being who she is.  I pray that I may have a heart filled with love as well.   I don't think I can protect my children from every harm and hurt they will feel (I wish I could).  But I pray that having been raised in love and compassion, they might weather the storms they will face with strength, compassion, and courage.   And a deep abiding faith in the God who loves faithfully and abundantly, to carry them through.








Wednesday, August 17, 2011

For all of us adopting parents and for those who consider it

I'm going to go out on a limb here.  I have been wanting to write this post for a long time, but couldn't find the nerve.

First I want to say I believe in adoption, international and domestic.  I believe that children that can't live with their family have the right to live in a loving family.  My life has been changed by adoption, my children's' lives have been changed by adoption, and we will forever be grateful that we were the ones to be given the opportunity to raise our two girls.  I have met wonderful, brave, courageous people who are adopting and who have adopted.   And I know of children who are now in loving families, or will soon be in loving families, that otherwise would never had had that chance.  And I'm so grateful for families that open their hearts and homes to the children of Congo, some of whom I know personally.

And I know many of them struggle with many of the same issues and concerns I have about the ethics involved in international adoption.  I went into adoption not knowing that much about adopting internationally.  I just always knew that I wanted to provide a loving home for a child (or children) one day and that I wanted to do adopt from where I was living (I NEVER thought I would live one day in DR Congo).  I have learned so much, good and bad, since we jumped international adoption 2 years ago.  I have heard many stories about adoptions in eastern DRC, some told me in secret and confidence.  I have come to the hard point where I find myself having grave concerns about the ethics involved in adopting internationally from DRC.

I have serious questions about whether or not international adoptions should be allowed to proceed in a country (DRC) with such little infrastructure (that is necessary to support and investigate abandonments, search for birth parents, and guard against child trafficking), with so little oversight, with so much corruption (leading to countless acts of unethical behavior), and with so little regard for child welfare.     International adoption brings with it money, power, and influence (and lots of very strong emotions).
I have such a hard time writing that because I know there are so many children who need homes!  

I want to engage in this issue.  I want to be a voice advocating for ethical adoptions in DRC.  I want to be a voice for change.  As I have thought so much about this over the past 2 years I want to share some of my thoughts about what ethical adoption should look like in DRC (given what I said about the country above).  I think we all care very deeply for the children here and with that in mind I hope we can all engage on what is necessary to change adoptions as they are currently happening in Congo, so that we can find children homes that need them, reunite children with their families if it is possible, and improve the living conditions and lives of those which we can do neither.

I believe that adoptions agencies and organizations should--
1.  Extensively visit the orphanages they are working with, form trusting and lasting relationships with their staff on the ground, and refuse to do adoptions from any orphanage that has a known or suspected corrupt leader/director.
2.  Require that all abandoned children not be immediately relinquished for adoption.  Instead, the agency or organization should pay for radio and tv ads to do a thorough search for birth family members that may be unaware of the abandonment and work with (or establish) local organizations to help with these searches.
3.  Connect birth families with organizations that do sponsorship if it is clear that a child was abandoned due to poverty, so that the child or baby can stay with the family and not be adopted internationally.  (Women for women is an organization that does sponsorships for women and their children).
4.  Support and encourage domestic adoptions and raise money to this end.
5.  Model and research organizations that do reunification work in other countries.
6.  Refuse to work with any orphanage that is corrupt and absolutely refuse to allow money to change hands in any way when their is a corrupt director in an adoption proceeding.
7.  Allow transparency and open communication with others in the adoption community to increase the knowledge base of other adoptive parents who often feel like they are kept in the dark regarding the money they pay for their adoptions, the orphanages the children come from, and the process over all.  And report unethical behavior or concerns regarding agencies or organizations to the U.S. embassy in Kinshasa.
8.  Truly make international adoption the last resort, and reflect this in their mandate and work.
9.  List all their fees to their clients in detail and justify why and allow for comparison and communication between agencies (which is currently unheard of).
10.  Only accept referrals from orphanages. And they should only accept referrals of babies and children who were not abandoned to that orphanage for the sole purpose of adoption.  I simply believe that the income difference between adopting international families and birth families is too big of an issue to overlook.  I believe that there are many poor families that would give their child to a "rich"(relatively speaking) family because they know that they will be better taken care of (and most of the time this means receive education, health care, food, and shelter).  I don't believe that adoption is about saving poor children out of desperate situations or out of poverty.  I believe adoption is about finding families for children who will never have a chance to live in a family.
11.  (and this is so important!) Work to decrease the underlying reasons why children are abandoned in the first place.  Come alongside existing organizations that help to prevent families from failing.   And this can be done with so little money.  Development on a small local level works and it makes a difference.  You can make a difference.  There are so many wonderful organizations out there that are making a difference.  A difference means that the overall health and well being of a family and community are raised and then there are less children abandoned.

One of the best things a prospective DRC adoptive parent can do to help increase the chances of an ethical adoptions is visit the country and child before the adoption is processed.  The next best would be to talk to others from other agencies and organizations very openly and transparently.  Ask hard questions.  Be willing to not accept a referral if any thing seems questionable or inconsistent in the story.

I do believe strongly that real work can be done on the ground to make a difference in the lives of orphans in DRC.  There are congolese women and men working hard to make a difference.

Living in Congo, prospective and current adopting parents wrote me about their agencies and organizations.  Every thing that I have shared here comes from my experience working with international adoption and knowing others in the process.

Tumaini, the organization we are starting, enables orphaned babies to have a fighting chance at survival.  All the children at the orphanage have lost their mothers, some their fathers as well, and they are sent to the orphanage from all over eastern congo.  Most are sent as newborns to prevent their deaths.  They all have known families.  We are trying our best to give them good care and then encourage them to be reunited with their families as soon as possible.  (More on this important last point in another post).

Interested in reading others' thoughts on international adoption?  I would highly recommend this post (and follow the links at the bottom, they are excellent as well).

http://rileysinuganda.blogspot.com/2011/08/update-on-intercountry-adoption.html


This was a hard post for me to write.  I think some may interpret what I have written as being too critical and condemning of international adoption in DR Congo overall.  All I can say, is that I love my little girls too much to not write this post and I care too much about their country and what happens there to stay silent.  I will continue to wrestle with these issues and welcome discussion.

As always, thanks for reading.


Sabina, a very loved little girl, who needs one more sponsor at $25/month.  

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

New babies!

There 3 new babies that have arrived since I left Congo.  (There were 6 new babies on my last visit.).  That  makes 9 babies that need sponsors.

Introducing the 3 new babies...

The first baby is Chikwanine Mugisho, he was born April 9 and just arrived at the orphanage.  His mother died and his father carried him to the orphanage to keep him alive.  He comes from a village far away.

This second baby is a little girl named Furaha (joy).  She was born in May, her mother died.  She also comes from a far village.  

The last baby is a Binja Gloire, she is a little girl.  She was born in June.  Her story will be shared only with her sponsor.  

Would you consider sponsoring one of these babies?  Or do you know someone that might be interested?  A partial sponsorship is $25/ month.  We need two sponsors per month to fully support each baby.  Please feel free to email me at hmulford at gmail.com.

Thank you.




Monday, August 15, 2011

What If

Ellie and Mia, Feb. 20, 2010


Sometimes, I look at Ellie and Mia, and I think to myself, "What if we had never gone to the orphanage Feb. 20, 2010?"

The Save the Children Orphanage only accepts babies after their mothers have died, most often from complications of childbirth.  (There are rare exceptions.)  The orphanage is in an isolated area in the mountains of eastern DR Congo.  






The truth is I know what would have happened to them.

Since we visited the orphanage a year and a half ago, generous friends and family have partnered with us at the orphanage and we have done trainings, provided formula so every baby can drink full strength formula, provided whole powdered milk with vitamins for the older children, and hired extra staff.  


At their present age of 21 months, most likely one of them would have died.

In 2009, 5 children died at the orphanage, two of those children were a part of a twin set.  In a USAID report on Congo from August 2010, they noted that, "in 2007, for every 100,000 births, there were 549 maternal deaths; infant mortality rates were at 92 for every 1000 live births.  The estimated figures for 2010 have improved, but the country is still among the bottom 20 in the world for maternal and child health."   


The surviving twin most likely would not be walking.  She would not talk or smile.  She would shudder and cry when touched.

Nsimire was just about 2 years old in this photo, she wasn't walking, and would cry if I held her. 


This is how I found the children under 2 years old when I went to the orphanage in Feb. 2010.  There was not enough staff, nor enough food and formula.  Too many babies and too few mamas to watch other them.  Some days there were 35 babies and children (or more) with 2 women to watch them. 






She would probably weigh about 12 to 15 lbs and have ricketts from rarely going outside and from only receiving watered down formula until 6 months old.

Moise was almost 9 months old in this photo.  Read his incredible story here 
(and make sure to follow it all the way to the end). 


Since then, not only friends and family have helped support the orphanage but also folks I have never met, who have felt moved to help the babies and children of the orphanage.  To make a difference in their lives.  


If we had never gone, then today she would have been rarely be held, she would have spent most of the day in her crib on her back or wishing to be held.

This is Gloire, on one of our visits early in 2010.  He still needs a sponsor.  

This is Ziruka.  She is fully sponsored!


Today the story is different at the orphanage.  Today, the children are held.  Little Chantal is walking at age 16 months.   The newborns are fed full strength formula and all the children are brought outside.  


One of the newest babies.  




The children that were the same age as my girls are doing now, are doing well.  They are alive, they are held, they are told they are loved, they are fed.  They walk, they talk, they smile, they giggle!  This is the difference love and food can make.  As more and more infants come to the orphanage (because the families have hope that they will be given a chance to live instead of die) the need is greater for sponsors and supporters of the orphanage.

Sweet Janvier.

Nsimire one month ago.



Tumaini was started to provide hope to the children of eastern DRC.  Tumaini means hope in Swahili.  At the Save the Children orphanage our main project is to provide formula for the newborns and babies, powdered milk for the children over age one, and salaries for additional staff so the babies and children are held.  


Are you interested in partnering with us as we work at the Save the Children Orphanage?  Please follow this link or the ones on the right side of the screen to find out how to help.  Our website is www.tumainidrc.org.


Thank you!
Mia and Ellie

Saturday, August 13, 2011

curses and poison (when cultures collide)

There is a subject about living in Congo that was hard for me.  It was the fact that most people believed in witchcraft, or as was more commonly translated, curses and poisoning.  I know there is a long history that I'm sure it is intertwined with cultural traditions, practices, and spiritual beliefs of years past that still remains and is practiced today.  And I'm positive you can find a lot of reading about the history of spiritual beliefs in Congo and learn a lot more about it.  I want to talk about one side of the story that I saw that relates to present day and the lack of quality health care.

First, if you read this post, you will note that there is a very poor functioning health care system in the area where we lived.  You could go see any number of medical people with some sort of training and get prescribed any number of medications.  For example, when my daughters all had very bad diarrhea about 8 months ago, I took E. to a nearby clinic.  I was told she has an infection, they wanted to draw blood, do stool cultures and they also wanted to start 6 medications immediately.  The medications treated everything from malaria to pinworms.  When I asked what they were presumably treating, they said "an infection" (with a sort of, "why are you asking anyway?").  When I asked why they were giving my baby a medication that is not given to babies in the U.S. (except in extreme cases), he said it is because they experiment with children and medications here (yeah, I did have a quick flash of horror of The Constant Gardner for a minute!).   The approach was, you (or your child) is sick, here are all the medicines I can think of that could possibly be somewhat appropriate to a sick person (or child).  If you don't leave with medicine you weren't treated well, the more medicines the better.

Most often you are sick, you go to a clinic, and then you leave with a lot of blood work done and a long list of mediations to take (that you go buy at the local pharmacy).  You aren't told why you are taking the medicine, what it is for, or what they even think you are sick with most often.  Over prescribing antibiotics (and multiple unnecessary medications at the same time) is extremely common.  In pediatrics the problems are even multiplied.

When someone dies, you often don't know why.  They were sick, then they died.  Or they had surgery, then they died.  If you are sick enough to go to the hospital, you often go there to die.  Resuscitation is uncommon.  Supplies few (except in some of the larger hospitals where you might have outside funders giving donations).  Diseases are complicated by extreme poverty.  Read this post.

Most aspiring physicians dream of doing additional training (where they often have to start over) elsewhere, and the fortunate few are able to see their dream realized.  (There are some amazing congolese physicians doing work in eastern Congo, dedicating their lives to relieve suffering.  Check out this doctor and read about this group.  And there are more.  It is inspiring. )

So, given all of this, perhaps it is not surprising that when someone dies or is very sick, there is an underlying belief that the person has been cursed and/or poisoned.  There is a deep paranoia and mistrust that exists within the culture, that translates even up to the middle and higher classes.  You hear stories everyday of someone dying from being poisoned, someone else was cursed, someone went to go get medicine from the local traditional healers or from the "witchcraft" type to treat someone.  You hear fear and mistrust.  You hear stories that don't make sense, that make you wonder.  

From my western training and medical experience, I find it baffling most of the time.  When an older man (who has struggled from diabetes for a long time) dies from complications from diabetes, it is clear to me.  He died because he had diabetes.  Instead, rumors swirl.  He died because he was poisoned.  He was cursed.  Someone poisoned him because he had mzungu (white) friends, and they were jealous.  When I consider the ancient traditions, more recent traditions and the past coupled with the mysterious, nebulous, unknown of western medicine that has been foisted on that same past (the western medicine which doesn't explain anything, and if anything adds to the confusion by its lack of clarity and reason), I can make more sense of it.  

One of my husband's work colleagues once had his leg swell and swell.  There are tropical diseases that could have caused this problem.  I found them in my big textbook I lugged to Africa.  This man was an educated man.  He didn't seek help from the hospital, he said he would die.  He said he had been poisoned and he needed the appropriate antidote.  He went to the local traditional healer.  He got better.  I was interested and did more reading.  In one case I found the sentence, "the medication given for [this disease] can often be given confused with another medication in the developing world hospital setting, and if this one is given erroneously, death is the result".  In the end, the traditional medicine (probably taken in part from a medicinal plant in the tropical jungle) healed him.  In his mind, the antidote to the poison he was given healed him.

One little boy I met, I will never forget, as his story was so heart wrenching.  He was 8 years old (photo below).  He weighed 30ish lbs.  He was part of a local feeding center.  His parents never fed him, so he ate at the center the one meal a day.  He never grew.  His parents didn't feed him because they said he was cursed.  They said they knew he was cursed because he never grew.  He probably did have an underlying disease, maybe a chronic infection that contributed to his severe malnutrition.  But a bigger part was that he was being intentionally starved because he was a "cursed" little boy.  The man I had the joy to be working with at the time was so calm about it, it wasn't surprising to him.  And over the next year, he persistently visited the family to try to help them see that he wasn't cursed, and that feeding him will help him gain weight.  It took a long time, but the family did change and began to feed him.  



It is complicated and heart breaking.  I am very grateful for good quality health care.  I hope I never take it for granted.  And I hope that more and more physicians that maybe train elsewhere go back to Congo to work in the hospitals and clinics and increase the quality of care.  I believe it is a basic human right and deserves attention and resources.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

finding my way

We are settled in our new home.  It is a gift in so many ways.  The girls love it here.  There are trees outside my kitchen and dining room windows, a forest in which to wander.

I feel a bit like a turtle that is afraid to peep out from under it's shell.  I will for a moment.

Most of all, I'm overwhelmed.  By some of the simple things--

the speed of travel.  no pot holes and even paved roads means smooth and fast driving.  it's bewildering.

the choices.  I knew I would struggle in grocery stores.  The grocery store here is probably 50 times bigger than ours back home.  I will admit to having panic attacks when I first had to go in them a month ago.  I found choosing a cereal an almost impossible task.  Once, I had to have my friend choose my peanut butter.  One of our recent shopping trips, we were befuddled by the orange juice choices, "some pulp, no pulp, lots of pulp".  I don't know the last time I considered how much pulp I wanted in my orange juice.  I will also admit that two days ago when I attempted my first real shopping trip alone with Natalie and a big list, that I almost sat down in the international food section and cried because I recognized the food labels and I knew exactly what I wanted right away.  I ended up buying bottled coke and ceres juice and I was so happy.  Natalie walked around a bit stunned by the whole trip asking me, "where does all this food come from Mommy, how does it get here, who makes all this food, why is there so much food, and what is this and that and this and that?".

There there are the bigger things---

water.  We have so much water.  I don't even know how much I am using.  If I was still home in Bukavu right now, where it is dry season and where the water from the city has dried up, I would be using water from jerry cans that we had to send cars and people out to find in the city.  I would be rationing the water.  I would be watching children wandering around with jerry cans at all hours.  I would struggle knowing that I have in abundance what most of my neighbors lack with severity.  Here, it's easier.  And that makes it harder too.  I'm not reminded.  I turn on my faucet, and water issues forth.  There I would be lifting very heavy jerry cans to wash my hands and be reminded that children carry these long distances to be used by large families if they are lucky enough to find water with which to fill them.
I would remember.

I am grateful and I also struggle to find my way.

health.  Ellie was sick with a fever for 3 days.  I took her to a doctor.  It wasn't just me for once.  There wasn't the old anxiety or stress.  There wasn't a fear of the unknown.  I knew that she would get the best care she could possibly get here.  I remember other days.  Other fears.  Other nights.

electricity.  all the time.  full strength.  It's amazing how much full strength lighting can lift one's sprits.

sanitation, schooling, roads, and on and on

public works.  Today we went and got library cards.  We checked out books.  We wandered around a bit  awestruck by the public library.  Wow.  Then we left the building and there were fire trucks in the street. The parking garage we had parked our car in had a car on fire in it!  There were fire trucks!  And they put the fire out.  (The car was two cars away from ours!).

Other things--

I love doing laundry.  I love it.  I look for laundry all day.  I can't wait to do a load.

Natalie misses Laurent.  She has told me this many times.

Life used to be simpler.

There is so much I don't know.

Mike has been on two bike rides already and has been on many walks.  We couldn't do this in Bukavu.

Farmers markets are so much less exciting here.  I miss the markets of Bukavu.

There are some people that completely inspire me.  Like the woman who I am privileged to call my friend, that started this organization.

I miss being surrounded by congolese.  I miss the warmth of brown.

The other day I spoke in my botched french for an hour in the car when the kids were sleeping as we drove north, speaking of all that I missed.

Natalie is already forgetting french.

We shipped 27 trunks to the states 2 months ago.  For some strange reason, 3 of those trunks ended up at our friend's house in Germany!

Isla told me the other day she wanted to go home.  And not this home.

I am so tired of packing and unpacking.

Colorado debriefing time was very good and also very hard.

Having it be light until 9:30 p.m. was really really hard to get used to; the kids were as bewildered by it as much as us grown ups.

I have been humbled and blessed by the countless family and friends that have loved us, helped us, called us, spent time with us, gone out of their way to visit us, lifted boxes for us, packed late at night with us, helped us in airports, carried countless heavy suitcases for us, encouraged us along this crazy trip with calls, notes, emails,  had patience with us, hugged us, welcomed us home, driven us, blessed us, given to us, and generally welcomed us back.  Helped us realize we aren't so alone and we are going to be okay.

My mom and cousin, who arrived in Bukavu over a month ago now (thinking they were going to stay with us for 2 days and then fly us to the states), who had to stay with us in Bukavu for 2  weeks unexpectedly, and who then flew the 27 hours with us (with 16 pieces of luggage, 3 roller carry ons, 5 back packs, 3 car seats, and  4 kids four years old and under), will forever be our heroes.   And I am so glad that I don't have to do that trip again (with all the kids and the luggage that is anyway!).

And then, there are the children that I love and miss so much already. There is a deep ache in my heart.
 I am grateful, but I'm also struggling to find my way.


I will be continuing to write about Tumaini, Kaziba, and our life in Bukavu in the days ahead.  Please check back, there is work to be done and stories to tell.  

I have been so humbled by all the folks who have come forward to partner with us up at the orphanage. This sweet fun loving boy still needs a sponsor, his name is Shereba, he'll be four in September.  If you are interested in sponsoring him, please follow the link here to our website, or the link above.  Thank you.