Monday, March 31, 2008

Let the countdown begin!

We only have 18 days left! Can you believe it? It looks like we're going to make it. There have definitely been times where we doubted that we would ever get this far. When we first arrived and looked at the calendar and started counting... 46 days!... how in the world are we going to make it? Now, here we are over half way there and in the teens (days that is). God has been so good to us. There have had a few times where it was so horrible that we felt like cusssing (actually, I think Mary Jane and my mother-in-law did?... just kidding!). But there have also been times where you're like... Lord thank you for trusting us enough to let us experience this together as a family. Even the tough times. Mary Jane and I were talking the other night about our experience at the park on Saturday. I told her," that if everything would have been perfect that day we really wouldn't have created any lasting memories." If there wouldn't have been any chaos and struggle we would have had a great time then in a few weeks or months we would have probably forgotten all about it." Think about it. Think about that time where you went camping and you got rained on in your little tent and everything got drenched. Or maybe you've been on vacation and something happened that at the time ruined your day, but now every time it comes up you have something to laugh about. Those are the memories that we'll never forget. I think back to the time when Mary Jane and I were first married and we were in Bible college down in Graceville, Florida. We were so broke even the poor people in town felt sorry for us. I was going to school full time and washing dishes full time at night making $3.85 per hour. We also cleaned the restrooms at the local outlet mall on the weekends for extra money. We were on food stamps AND wic voutures. We would go and stand in line for government cheese every month (actually I don't think it was really cheese, because it didn't melt)! We were so broke we couldn't even pay attention! I know, that's an old one... I just wanted to go old school on you for a minute. But the point is this... we wouldn't trade those memories for any amount of money. We laugh so hard about those times. It's the tough times like back then, that make us really appreciate where we are today. It also causes us to reflect on the faithfulness of our, He is so good to us! I have no idea why I said all of that. Maybe you're going through a tough time right now? If you are, just let this 'time' run it's course... be faithful to what God has called you to, and you too will have some awesome memories to look back and laugh at.

As I told you last night, the psychologist brought the 4 children, that were abandoned on the side of the road by their parents, by to see us today. These kids were so cute. But, you could tell that they were hurting. The oldest girl was so sweet, but she was very shy. I just wanted to hug her and tell her that there is nothing wrong with her... it's her parents that had the problem. I still can't fathom the fact that there are people out there who would do this to their own flesh and blood. We took a few pictures with them, we gave them some candy that we had bought for them along with some popsicles and that was it. This psychologist just wanted us to meet them because she had a real burden for this family. I really feel like something is going to come out of our meeting them though... I just don't know what. It's a crazy thing to think about kids like ours out there without parents. Our kids are so cute and so much fun... how could you abandon them? Oh well, on a different note... we're also counting down the days until Michael gets here... only 5 more days! We all really miss him greatly. Pray for his safe journey here and for favor with customs. I think Mary Jane and Maryssa are going to go to the doctor tomorrow because they can't shake these stupid sore throats. I bet if Mary Jane would have been more compassionate with me when I was sick her throat wouldn't hurt, hmmm... just a thought. Come on! It's just a joke! We love you guys and thank you for reading our blog.
Love ya,
Jim and Mary Jane

Sunday, March 30, 2008

"Can't we all just get along?"

I know you will probably be shocked when I say this... are you ready? OK, here it comes... all of our kids don't get along all the time. Wow. I know it's very unusual that our kids don't always get along 24hrs a day! Because all kids are suppose to get along all the time, right? I know that my little brother and I 'always' got along (don't say anything, Dwayne) when we were growing up. Maybe it's something in the water here in Brazil? Maybe we're not spiritual enough? Or, maybe we need to read more books on parenting? Yeah right! Our kids (adoptive and biological) are truly acting like brothers and sisters. They tease each other, provoke each other, stick their tongues out at each other, yell at each other, make fun of each other and my father-in-law just informed me that they even spit on each other (It's seems as though Gabriel thought it was OK to spit at Marlon in retaliation for something that Marlon did). But on the flip side... they laugh alot together, they have alot of fun together and most of all they truly care about each other. It's weird... I had to get on to Matthew and Marlon today because they were just picking on each other and I had reached the end of my rope with all of the constant bickering. Being stuck in a small room with 2 adults and 7 kids... I was like a ticking time bomb, just waiting to go off anyway. But, after I had gotten on to them... they banded together and worked some things out. I could see compassion in Marlon's eyes for Matthew becuase he got punished. And they were just at each other 10 minutes earlier. I'm not saying that they will never get into it again... I'm saying that they worked through some things in spite of their differences. They even ganged up together on PaPa tonight in a game of ping pong. It's all coming together, praise God.
We have returned to Betania tonight. It was nice to get a change of scenery for 2 days. The pics I posted were from our 7th floor balcony. We were right in the middle of downtown. It was pretty. Now we are back in the suburbs. But the nice thing is that we actually have grass for he kids to play in now. Tomorrow the lady who did our psychological evaluations will be returning to visit us. She wanted to bring the 4 children that I told you about on Thursday by to meet us. So, pray for us. Well, it's time for bed now so I guess we'll talk tomorrow.

Love ya,
The Referee

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Looks can be deceiving!

Don't let the pictures fool you. If you were to look at these pictures you would probably think... wow, that looks like they had a really great time today! Psych! Don't get me wrong, there were moments of fun but they were few and far between. We had a friend of ours take us to this huge park. She had to take us in shifts, two carloads, first because we have a large family and secondly because all of the cars here are sooo small! Mary Jane and I went in the first carload with all of the little ones. Then my mother-in-law and father-in-law came in the second load with the 4 oldest kids. Now let me say this first... there were hundreds of other people there with their families quietly walking hand in hand just enjoying the beautiful weather. People riding bikes, joggers, you know... basic park people. Everything was so peaceful. Then the Dunn's arrived. When we got there we noticed a big bridge that crossed a creek, so we crossed it. Of course all of the kids were leaning through the rails so that they could get a closer look at the water, and it was freaking me out because none of them could swim and the bridge was about 15' above the water. Then when we got to the other side we saw a huge flock(?) of ducks... and of course the kids had to chase them until they all went into the lake. Then they thought it was necessary to throw sticks and rocks at the ducks because they hadn't tormented them enough yet. Then Diogo thought it would be a good idea to fake like he was pushing all the little kids in the water, just to tease them. It would have been funny accept that the water was atleast 3' deep right at the edge (remember none of them can swim?). Then we noticed these big things that looked like giant rats/pigs (they probably weighed around 70-80 lbs each) so we went to investigate. I don't know what they were but I was told that they are native to Brazil. And there were big huge piles of poop all over the place from these animals, and of course Robert just had to pick some up and put it in his mouth! What's up with this kid putting everything in his mouth? (He said it tasted like chicken... just kidding.) We figured it was a good time to move away from the water at this point. Then they found a manwhole cover that wasn't properly placed over it's whole (of course they found it!) and decided to all go and jump up and down on it. Anyway, all of this happened and we had only been there 10 minutes! Then the second carload arrived and we decided to walk around the park on the pedestrian path. There were ice cream and popcorn venders every 20' and that's how many times we were asked if they could have some... every 20'. There were kids crying (ours of course) and having to be carried and asking for rides on our shoulders because they were tired of walking and then they would run off to throw stuff in the water... it was crazy. Am I an idiot or is it suppose to be this difficult to have fun? There were these big swans (paddle boats) so we went out for a 30 minute ride. That was probably the most relaxed we were the entire day. Then it was time to continue our walk around the park. Everyone was exhausted by this point and ready for lunch. We had made it the whole day without the kids getting totally trashed and dirty... we were alsmost at the finish line... then it happened... all the boys walked to the edge of the lake and jumped in this mud bog! Man, we were so close to making it to the end all clean! I guess there's always next time.?? Well now that it's over, I guess it could have been worse. Nobody was injured and we didn't lose anyone... so it was a good day after all. When you're right in the middle of all this stuff it is so stressful and chaotic but after it's all said and done... these kids are great and we wouldn't trade them for anything (even though we might seriously want to hurt them sometimes!). It's pretty much the same with life in general. We have these plans of how things are suppose to go... all perfect without geting dirty. But that's not the way life is. We're gonna get dirty, things are going to seem chaotic sometimes and sometimes we're just going to be totally disgusted with the way things are going. That's when we just need to take a step back and say, "oh well" and just laugh our way through it. Otherwise were going to be pretty miserable. The Bible talks about how God sits in the Heavens and laughs... and I know He's got to laugh at us sometimes for taking things so seriously. We love and miss you guys!

Love Ya,
Jim and Mary Jane

Friday, March 28, 2008

We're at the new place

Well we made it to the new hotel. It is nicer than where we have been staying but not as 'kid friendly.' It does have hot water, but still no air conditioning... I guess this is payback for freezing the secretaries and Dan out every week in the office! When we got to the hotel our rooms weren't ready so we had to actually try and sit still for almost an hour. This normally wouldn't be a problem but when you have 5 extra little ones it is a challenge. We ended up sending them to the gym and even Robert got on the treadmill for a little bit. When we got settled in we decided to take the kids to the pool and when we got to the pool we had to laugh... this thing was about the size of a baptismal tank! It was only 3' deep at the deepest part and was really warm... and the kids hadn't gotten in yet, so it wasn't pee. The kids wanted to keep jumping in and then get out and then jump in and then get out, over and over and over again. This normally wouldn't bother me but I felt like someone was going to get hurt, so I made them stop. But, like most kids do, they didn't get it right away and Diogo jumped in and hit his chin... busting it wide open! Normally we would have taken him to the hospital (it's right across the street) but we decided to butterfly bandage it and roll with it. Is that bad? It wasn't bleeding uncontrollably or anything. And there was soooo much chlorine in the pool (it felt like someone sprayed muratic acid in your eyes everytime the water got in them) so there isn't any possible way that it was going to get infected. And girls think scars are sexy, right? So he can thank us later for his really cool scar. I did get MJ to take a picture of the wound for you guys but it was too blurry to post. So, you only get to see the bandages.

Today I took Marlon to his interview with the judge. Let me say this, I almost started crying in the courtroom. It was just Marlon, Lino (our liason here in Brazil), the Judge, 2 court recorders and me. The Judge put Marlon in the witness chair and started asking him all kinds of questions. He asked him if he and his brothers and sister wanted to be a part of our family and Marlon told him, "that he had talked to all of his siblings except for Robert and they all wanted to be with us. The Judge asked him why he didn't talk to Robert about it and Marlon told the Judge that Robert was only 2 years old. The Judge then asked Marlon what he wanted from our family and without hesitation his response was care. Lino told me the word that he used care or affection. Wow. Out of all the things to ask for he was wanting something that every child should have anyway. The Judge then asked him what he had to offer the family and his response was the same. The Judge told him that he was very proud of him and that he was a very wise little boy. He said that he was proud because his answers were something that money couldn't buy. I was choking back the tears at this point becuase he could have said a house or security or some other 'thing' but, of all the things to ask for he asked for affection or care. Well, he's come to the right place because that's exactly what he's going to get! The Judge then made him sign a document that stated that he and his siblings wanted to be a adopted by MJ and I. And that was it. You can see a pic of us with the Judge at the end. Well that's about all for now. Thanks again for reading our blog and thanks for all the prayers. We love you guys!

Love ya,

Dr. Jim

Thursday, March 27, 2008

No Rain!

It was a beautiful day! There wasn't any rain in sight! We were able to take the kids to the pool and it was a great day... not being stuck inside all day. The kids had a great time and we finally got a little bit of sun ( I think I may be the whitest person in Curitiba ) .

We also had our last interview with the psycologist. It went great. She interviewed us and then all of he kids by themselves. She said that all of the kids loved being a part of our family and that Diogo said he loved having a Mom and Dad and Grandparents. That's a good feeling to know that the kids have bonded with us. During our interview she told us she wanted to change the subject for as few moments. She said she wanted to share with us about another sibling group that she was trying to find parents for. She said she wasn't meaning for us but if we heard of anyone we could point them in the right direction. She opened up this folder and started telling us about a sibling group of 4 children who have been in an orphanage for the last couple of years. It was 3 boys and a girl. I think thier ages were between 5-11. These kids were abandoned by thier parents on an abandoned road a couple of years ago. She showed us pictures and these were really cute kids! Now what is going through your mind as a parent... where you could take your own flesh and blood and dump them off on the side of the road like that? And never look back?? And what goes through your mind as a child... when your Mom and Dad take you to an abandoned road and tell you to get out of the car, then they drive away. Leaving you standing there all alone... where do you go? What do you do? Your just a little kid! This kind of stuff isn't suppose to happen to you.??? When I heard thier story and saw thier pictures it made me realize that what we are doing is definitely a GOD thing. It made me think about my 5 adoptive children and about how they now have a future. They don't have to worry about being dumped off on the side of the road. It breaks your heart.

There are so many children in the world today (over 143 million) who don't have parents. There are so many kids who really don't stand a chance unless someone steps up and says, "I'm going to do something." I'm going to try and step out of my comfort zone and do something. Now, I'm not saying that everybody needs to adopt a child. Let me say that again, I am not saying that everybody needs to adopt a child. But what I am saying is this... how many needs (other than your own) have you seen over the last 6 months? How many different situations have you seen where someone needed help? Did you do anything to try and fill that need? Or did you say, bless them Lord and then go on your way thinking, "somebody else will probably help them." We can't do that any longer. I believe that the Lord shows us different needs for a reason... to help. Some needs are big and some are small. But the enemy has us so busy that we don't have time to do anything for anyone else because we're trying to take care of our 4 and no more. We've got to break that cycle. If our schedules are so full that we don't have time to reach out to the people in our own communities then it's time to clear our schedules and re-evaluate our lives. The only reason that the Lord has us here on the planet is to make a difference. To be SALT and to be LIGHT. I'm sorry for getting all serious on you guys tonight. I would rather talk about all funny stuff we're going through right now but, man... when you hear stories and see pictures of kids like we did today it fires you up! We, as the Body of Christ, have the capacity and the resources to literally change our world... if we woud just be willing.

We love you guys. We might not be able to blog until Sunday Night because we have to move to a different facility tomorrow and we won't be back until Sunday Night. We don't know if there will be internet access there, but who knows. Please continue to pray for us. We will be going to court tomorrow for Marlons interview with the judge. Then next week will be more court appearances and the kids have to get all thier shots.

Love Ya,


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Thanks for all the emails!

Thank you to all of you who have been emailing us. You don't know how much it means to receive something as small as an email from someone back home. You don't know how many times your kind words of encouragement have really helped us get through. Just this morning we were feeling a little lonely and discouraged and I checked our email and sure enough there was one from Albert (a Hope and Lifer) that really encouraged MJ and I both. Thanks! It has been really difficult for us to be away from everyone. I'm used to addressing over 1,000 people each week from the puplit and then being able to shake several hundred hands and hug a few hundred necks each Sunday... and I'm going into withdrawls! Being with my church family is one of the things I look foward to each week. We don't just do it because we're on staff and we have to be there for services, we do it because we honestly care about our brothers and sisters at H&L. We love you guys! Thank you for all of your support and especially for your prayers.
Well it didn't rain today... but it was so overcast it may as well have been raining! We were hoping to atleast come away from this thing with a good tan, but it looks like I'm leaving white and bald! Kind of like Curley from the 3 stooges (yeah, I heard what you said Marvin... good thing you carry a gun!LOL) We're still battling this sickness junk. But we're still standing on the Word. Our little guy Robert (2yrs old) has been such a trooper through the whole thing. Even though he hasn't felt good he has provided some prime entertainment for us during our stay here. The picture of him on the ladder is a picture I took up on the roof where we go to kill time each day. He is a little daredevil. He isn't afraid of anything and he climbs stuff that would make most adults scared. Anyway, there is a ladder that goes up to a big water tank on the roof and he climbed it. Then he strattled the safety cage that surrounds it at the top. That's what those 2 pics are of. Everyone else is doing good. We're looking foward to going somewhere else for the weekend. A change of scenery is going to do us good. Well it's getting late so until tomorrow...
Love Ya!