Today we leave Beijing and head to Zhengzhou. Our son will be there tomorrow to meet us! The fact that we are this close is at once exciting and terrifying. We have enjoyed these days in Beijing and think it is genius of our adoption agency to plan these extra 2 days. We finally feel better and are not as exhausted and overwhelmed by the new sights, smells, and food. The past two days have been full of amazing sights, but the push is definitely for tomorrow. Looking at our family pictures in these past 2 days just reminds us that someone’s missing! It’s time to get him.
We have been enjoying getting to know the other families in our travel group. Yesterday while hiking the Great Wall, we were sharing how God has provided for our adoptions…it is simply beyond what I can describe. We are all here, welcoming our new children, and each and every one of us is surrounded by beautiful communities who have prayed and sacrificed for these children, too.
Tomorrow the beautiful, hard, worth-it work starts! Thank you is not enough, but I still say it…thank you, for your love and prayers and gifts and excitement! We will post an update as soon as we are able either tomorrow or the next day, depending on how Rowan is doing! We love you all!
Pete and I in front of the entrance to the Forbidden City. And a picture of people taking pictures of our girls…they are quite the attraction.
The girls have made friends with some other sweet girls in our group! Again, super thankful to have such a great group!
A rickshaw tour and another shot of enjoying the Forbidden City!
Kylah helping decide what we should set aside and pack!
We received travel approval and have our consulate appointment all lined up! Drum roll please….we leave August 23rd! All those prayers prayed, by us, by you! Thank you! God truly could not have worked out the timing any better and we are just so thankful! Rowan Hao becomes a Johnson on August 28th!!!
In other news, we do have some more prayer requests for the adoption. There have been some procedure changes in the last month for expats (we just love last minute changes! I mean, life would be boring with no visa drama, ha!), and we found out this week that they will impact us! So, we could again use your prayers, that God would move mountains of paperwork and now give us favor in the eyes of our own government. I will keep you updated on the prayer requests, for now, we are rejoicing in the answered prayer for timing, for God’s provision, and for one less little boy waiting for a family!
This week when I was stressing about the immigration changes, one of our interns wrote Pete and me a note that reminded me of something we are teaching the interns and that we still need to learn…one of the things she said was this: “Thank you for showing and teaching us how to love and see God in the difficult things we do.” Sometimes God calls us to difficult things, but He is there with us in it! Adoption, the Ranch ministry, life here, so much…but difficult doesn’t mean we should not do something! And difficult can be full of joy and peace, if we choose to present all our requests to God with thanksgiving!
There are so many points in an adoption where you are just waiting for the next approval, and here we are again! Our paperwork is all done, we are now awaiting Travel Approval (TA)! This takes anywhere from 1 to 2 weeks. Once we have TA, we can really begin to plan for our trip to bring Rowan home (by way of 2 different cities in China, then 2 different states, lots of traveling in between, and then “home” to Mexico)! We’ll be praying he understands “home” to mean together with us in our family, regardless of the traveling, and we’ll be bringing out all the tips that we have used with our girls as well in the many transitions they have also been through.
I will post more stories of all the ways God has provided for our adoption of Rowan Hao, because I am encouraged by them and I hope you will be, too! But first, we have 2 weeks left of summer camp here at the Ranch, so I’m updating quickly here, and getting back to work! (Camp has been GREAT with over 90 kids coming each day! God certainly has a way of keeping me in the present, that’s for sure!)
We were able to facetime with Rowan via a nanny in his orphanage and it was amazing! We were so very thankful. Rowan called us Mama and Baba (Daddy), pointed to us, and tried to share his lollipop with us the entire time! We feel really encouraged that he seems to know that we are coming for him, and that the nannies took the time to allow us to have this short communication with Rowan! They also sent us a picture of him with them, among many others! In every single picture Rowan is smiling! He sure seems like a happy kid, and that’s what they keep telling us. Please keep praying for him. We are about to take him from everything he has ever known. Pray for his transition and ours! It’s looking travel really will happen toward the last 2 weeks of August. Praise the Lord for that provision; the timing is really working out to the best for our family and the Ranch ministry! Thank you for all your prayers and love and encouragement!!!!
We received our provisional approval from the US government last week and have the hard copy in hand now! We are waiting a few days for our file to be transferred to another government office and then we will be completing a visa application for our son, and from there, our documents will go through several more steps being sent between government offices and we’ll receive travel approval! We are in the home stretch now are just so excited to meet Rowan.
We also have the exciting news that we will be able to facetime with Rowan this Thursday evening. Our agency and the orphanage where he is have given us permission to be in contact with one of his nannies, and she has been sending us a lot of great pictures and information on Rowan (through our Chinese tutor of course!). Pray for our Thursday “meeting” with Rowan. We’re a bit nervous, of course, and aren’t expecting much more than to just smile and wave, but we pray it will be a good step in preparing Rowan to join our family!
We’ve also received official updates from the orphanage, and want to share our absolute favorite picture so far of our son. In everything we are hearing about him and in literally every picture, he is smiling so big and is described as a cheerful little boy. You can’t help but smile when you see his face! Of course, we’re already biased, but he’s pretty much the cutest little guy around! I have told my friends to just consider me 36 weeks pregnant at this point…all I can think about is going to meet our son. But, of course, work continues here! And not just regular work…summer work. My prayer is that my longing to bring my child home would transfer into deep compassion for the children we work with here, to love them and serve them the way I want Rowan’s nannies to be caring for him!
We received an email yesterday that our official letter approving us to be Rowan’s parents is on its way to our adoption agency! This is a HUGE step, and we are so thankful to be here! It still looks like we could travel at the end of August (latter 2 weeks, hopefully, coming back “home” in the very first few days of September), providing all the other paperwork goes through in the “average” timeframe or slightly faster! So, what’s next? We will sign the paper stating we accept Rowan, and then we will start our US immigration paperwork. We’ll need to get our approval from USCIS, then we wait for a letter from the National Visa Center, then we need something called our Article 5 (final approval that everything is done from the US Embassy. It will be delivered to CCCWA, China’s central authority. The Article 5 lets CCCWA know that we are approved by the US government to adopt our specific child and have appropriately jumped through every hoop and paid every fee the two governments could think of.) After this step CCCWA issues travel approval. Once we get that travel approval, we can make a consulate appointment in China for our visa interview with Rowan, make sure we have our visas lined up, and then we will know when we are actually traveling (so, in a nutshell, we won’t know the exact date of our travel until about 10 to 21 days before we go!). You can imagine, I’m sure, that this process is patience building. Basically, we’ll hurry up and submit paperwork, then wait, then submit more, then wait, etc. You can pray with us that everything proceeds smoothly. It sounds more overwhelming than it is. The steps are actually quite clearly defined and laid out for us. BUT…we are doing all of this in the midst of a super busy summer season for us here at the Ranch! Pray for patience and energy, and most importantly, pray for Rowan’s heart. We won’t be able to immediately come to Mexico with him, we’ll have to be in the US for a bit while we process his US passport, etc., which is more transition for our little guy! We’ll need creativity and wisdom as we walk through this with him as a family. But, we all know that God does work through our prayers. The fact that we are even here where we are today is a testimony to what God can do! Thank you all for your many prayers and love for our family! I’ll try to post a bit more in the coming weeks so that you know where we stand in this process!
If you’ve ever been playing in the ocean waves or gone boogie boarding or surfing you know the feeling…
The wave was bigger than you expected…it crashes over you…before you know it…all goes dark…you are pushed and pulled under…you toss and spin around…thinking about how long you can hold your breath you wonder which way is up…and then you are slammed into the sandy bottom knocking out the remaining air you have stored in your lungs…you wonder how long you can stay under…and then…all goes calm…you can see the surface…and you pop up to the surface for a life giving breath of air.
This has been our experience this past two months…
A wave bigger than we expected comes crashing toward us…we undergo a number of significant-unplanned changes in our Ranch Team. Hurrican Odile hits. We are thrown into crisis and disaster relief work. The regular ministries of the Ranch continue…retreats, kids club, bible studies, project management, a short term team, a training event for area youth leaders…and the list goes on…
But we are coming up for air…God is good and faithful and sustained us during this time…and we are getting the rest and nourishment we need.
We appreciated all your prayers, letters of support, and calls of encouragement during this time. It is a blessing to know that what is done here is not done of our own efforts but is truly a community effort. We thank you all for our support.
We’ll be in touch shortly with some pictures of our past few months.
Check out one of the “taller” speakers!
I (Pete) am flying out today to Mexico City to participate in the “Cumbre Nacional de Lideres de Jovenes” or the National Convention of Youth Leaders of Mexico. It’s going to be a great time as I will be able to connect up with an old friend and co-worker Scott Hill. I will also be meeting with 5 interns who live in Mexico City and who will be joining us this summer in our intership program. It will be a good time to meet them and their families personally. May, one of our Ranch staff, will also be coming with me and participating in the conference and meeting our new interns. …BUT here is the real kicker….check out the picture and see if you can recognize one of the workshop speakers…that’s right I have the opportunity to present a workshop at the conference…and I’ll be giving the workshop in Spanish! The theme is “Developing a spiritually transformative environment for your camps and retreats.” I am excited about this opportunity to share about something I am passionate about and for the ability to be able to do it Spanish. It has been a long-hard road in learning Spanish and I have much, much more to go but it is nice to feel confident enough (with quite a bit of preparation!) to be able to give a workshop. If you think about it pray for May and myself this weekend as we connect with youth workers all across Mexico as we seek to grow in our capacities as youth workers.
We had a great Christmas vacation with Pete’s entire family. It was the first time we had all been together in two years and although it was a short experience it was packed full of adventure. The girls made a cheer all on their own that went like this…”We are adventure girls. We never fear. We climb mountains. Yaaaa!!!” They certainly deserve the label of adventure girls. Here are some of our pics of our time together.
We are adventure girls!
Christmas morning. Thanks Mimi for the matching pjs!
Pete’s family behind the ranch.
Cousins sporting ranch swag!
Nothing says adventure like swimming with whale sharks…yes, we did!
A little taste of Christmas in our home.
Family Christmas pic.
I love my girls! 🙂 And…I love that they are wearing summer dresses in December (when this pic was taken). This picture is from our trip to La Paz. We had to stay a night in Mazatlan while we waited for the ferry. It was a fun little family adventure! Our girls are great travelers and we have fun with them on the road (most of the time…I am refraining from posting a picture of all 5 of us in our little cabin designed for 2 people on the ferry…yeah, the ferry ride…not going in my list of top 10 favorite things to do with little kids!).
In other random update news:
1. We ate fish tacos the other day, and when Pete came back from putting all the toppings on his tacos, I was telling the girls they needed to eat more of their chicken before they could play. Pete gave me a weird look. The girls LOVED their “chicken” tacos, actually. I don’t know when we’ll inform them that they’re actually eating fish tacos.
2. We visited DIF (the social workers) in Marquez de Leon on Monday! It went really well and I’m excited to hopefully start volunteering for them soon. They want to start a painting class for kids at the end of this month and said they could use my help with that. I want to get to know them and the people in Marquez….relationships are a priority and before I suggest anything at all we need to take the time to all get to know each other…although, they were also pretty excited about the chance to have some English classes soon!
3. I took the girls to a library program yesterday! It was so fun, and I met a lot of other women. We’re having a little party on Thursday, and the girls can’t wait to go back!
4. I’ve updated our prayer request page on this blog…and we’re working on our January newsletter…I know you can’t wait, lol! 🙂
5. Please keep us in your prayers. To think we were worried last week about filling our days/getting into ministry, lol! We need wisdom as we make decisions about what God wants us to be involved in, etc., and we’re also sooo excited to be here and meeting people and beginning our work on the Ranch in in Marquez.
Here are three more book reviews from books I finished this past week on break between language sessions.
Leadership is a great book exploring the issues of cross cultural leadership. I’ve been on the search for a book like this for some time and finally found a bit of what I was looking for. This book doesn’t just skim the surface of cross cultural issues like many books do but rather dives deeper into the philosophical, sociological, and theological issues surrounding the issues of leadership in a cross-cultural setting. I think anyone who is in a leadership position could benefit from this book whether they are serving “internationally” or not. The fact that our world is getting so much smaller and our culture so much more fractured into smaller sub cultures warrants this much needed topic. If you are in leadership today you will be in a cross-cultural situation more than once. Whether, ethnically, generationally, across social barriers, differing parts of the same country, differing professions, etc… This book can help.
It’s hard to argue with Barna and with facts. He certainly does his research and has a proven track record. With that said this is Barna’s interpretation of the spiritual landscape across the States today…in what Barna calls a Spiritual Revolution. Although I am certain many people will be dismayed by what Barna lays out in this book, I found it uplifting and encouraging. God is certainly still working but just not in the areas we traditionally think he is. If you are wondering whats going on with the next generation or where the Church is heading then I think you will find this book both challenging and helpful. I for one believe what he describes because I’ve seen it with my own eyes for the past 8 years working with youth in a church and now devoting the next segment of my life to what some may call a “revolutionary” new way of being the Church.
As an in-home counselor and youth pastor I worked with numerous kids you were diagnosed with ADD/ADHD and now as a parent of one of those potentials I found this book extremely helpful and balanced. In the ADD/ADHD world opinions abound from parents, counselors, doctors, psychologists, and all the highly educated know-it-alls who post comments on message boards. (Sorry, couldn’t resist that one!) This book is written from the middle of the road and gives a great holistic view of what ADHD actually is and how we as parents and educators can respond. It provides very practical tools and suggestions for parents about dietary concerns, medications, schooling, home discipline, and more. If you have a child who you think is on the ADD/ADHD spectrum or work with a child who is this book will certainly help point you in the right direction and help you be and sound more educated about the issue than most people talking on the airways. (Sorry, couldn’t resist that one either!)