Monday, December 05, 2016

A Time of Dedication (Ministry Monday Series)

On December 1st, exactly two months after the official opening of the FLORECE Prenatal & Family Counseling Center, we celebrated with a special time of dedication. Our invited guests were pastors and wives from eight different churches (with five of the churches able to attend.) The purpose of the event, as stated in our letter of invitation to each pastor, was to provide greater understanding of the ministry of FLORECE by visiting our location and foremost, to pray together in unity for the blessing of God on this new commitment to Him and the community of Iquique. 

L-R (ladies) Grace, Natalia w/Emilia, Stephanie, Catalina, Kim, Andrea (men) Pedro w/Silas, Jon

We couldn't have done this event without our volunteers. For both the pastoral dedication and our volunteer training a few days prior, Maria prepared her homemade basil mayonnaise and red pepper chicken salad for invited guests. Kim baked three varieties of American sweet treats as a finishing touch for the morning's refreshments. With a full work schedule as a surgical assistant at a nearby clinic, Solange asked for a window of time off and showed up early to prepare gift bags for those in attendance. A day after completing a challenging national college entrance exam, Andrea volunteered to help in whatever way was needed. Natalia, a full-time mom, brought her young daughter Emilia and came prepared with coloring books and activities to oversee any children needing care. Grace, who in recent weeks has covered numerous extra shifts for a volunteer colleague on vacation, was willing to give her time yet again to serve. Catalina meticulously oversaw cleaning and upkeep, rearranging furniture up to the last minute and waxing floors to a beautiful shine (then making sure everything was back in place when we were done!) 

Solange organizing gift bags

our faithful ladies preparing refreshments

It was a special blessing to welcome our friends David and Kristi Flinck from Antofagasta. Their church plant hosted our first pro-life conference in August of last year, and has since supported FLORECE with their prayers and generosity. Most recently, they took the FLORECE ministry on for monthly financial support and they are the first church outside of our home church to do so! David also blessed us with his photography skills and provided a wonderful visual record of the day. Our program was purposely brief, including a PowerPoint presentation answering the questions: "Why a prenatal and family counseling center?" and "What is FLORECE?"

presenting the ministry of FLORECE

presenting the ministry of FLORECE

Following the presentation, we wanted to especially emphasize a time of prayer with the pastors. Gifts were later given that provided resources for sharing the pro-life message, including John Ensor's book Cuestion de vida o muerte which powerfully shines the light of God's Word on the issue of abortion and the Church's appropriate response.

time of prayer for FLORECE

time of prayer for FLORECE

gifts for pastors and wives

We concluded the morning's events with a "tour" of the FLORECE building and a time of refreshments and fellowship. Our volunteers waited at each of the different rooms in order to provide an explanation of what kind of ministry takes place in each one. We hope that having this time to explore and ask questions was beneficial to each of our guests and allowed them to visualize what happens during a day at FLORECE.

counseling rooms

bebe boutique

Afterwards, it was encouraging to hear from several of the pastors and wives in attendance. One wife said, "I am so glad my husband got to hear this. I really think it helped him to understand and he will support this ministry!" One of the pastors had previously been involved in social work through a government program. He offered to share a training course with our volunteers on the subject of drug prevention. We gladly welcome additional tools to apply Biblically in counseling situations!

We thank God for the privilege of serving in this ministry, and sharing it on this day with others. We trust that He will work through these pastors to share the vision with their churches and personally pursue compassionate ministry in the lives of women, families and unborn children. We give God all the glory for the great things He has done and will continue to do!

Friday, December 02, 2016

Most of All, I See Love (Family Friday Series)

One morning this semester, my eleven-year old son had a request before heading to school. "Where can I find the 10 Commandments in the Bible?" As I waited by the front door, he stood at the dining room table and leaned closely over the pages of his camouflage-covered edition of God's Word. Carefully he swept a yellow highlighter over the verses he wanted to be able to find later.

The day before, he had asked another question. "Is there a verse in the Bible that says we are saints?" He wanted to know where that was found, too. In the morning he told me the reason for his interest as we drove through the gray early light toward his school. He and a friend had been discussing things of a spiritual nature, and the friend said it was impossible to access God directly because He is way too great for us. He told my son that was why we needed the saints to intercede on our behalf.

That morning, I found it incredibly encouraging to know my son was having these conversations, on his own, with his peer. I found it incredibly moving that he was asking questions and going to God's Word to know the truth; and that he cared about the soul of another child. 

Jesus said that the first commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. The second, He said, was to love your neighbor as yourself. 

In the past weeks and months of national news and election politics, I have seen many adults failing to apply this law of love. I have wrestled with worries and fears for the well-being of this very child and his brothers because of reckless words flung onto computer screens - words reflecting anything but the golden rule.

It has made me even more deeply grateful for the tender heart of my son.

As I write this, Pedro and I have just spent an afternoon alongside Owen at the year-end cookout for his classmates and their parents. We didn't do much, but I observed much and was again encouraged by the young man I see emerging. I see a young man full of energy and enthusiasm, but also mannerly and mindful. I see a son with genuine enjoyment of his friends and his family. I see an older brother taking a moment to smile and play with a baby brother in the midst of his own boyish antics with his peers. And I see (in a picture sent to me by another mom with obvious Christmas spirit!) my little premature baby now nearly shoulder to shoulder with me and growing way too fast.

But most of all, I see love.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Sharing Flyers and FLORECE (Ministry Monday series)

In the cooler hours of late afternoon, one or two FLORECE volunteers will stand at our door with invitations in hand. The desert sun encourages most pedestrians to our sidewalk to avoid the piercing rays on the other side of the street. Occasionally an extended hand will be rejected, but mostly the flyers are well received. Sometimes a passerby will react with a bit of embarrassed comedy, such as the young mother pushing a stroller who exclaimed, "Pregnant again?! Oh no!"or the man who read the words "family counseling"and wryly remarked, "You could have told me sooner. I got separated yesterday!" But more than once, a woman has walked away with her flyer only to return a short while later and request one of our services. Those are the moments that make the others worthwhile!

Other times, the volunteers will follow a wide route around FLORECE to hand out flyers outside multiple schools in that range. Several of us carry flyers at all times, to hand out in grocery stores, on buses or whenever opportunity strikes. This week I was introduced to a professor in the psychology department of a local university who requested information. One of our volunteers, Grace, has a sister who lives next door to an adult learning center where older students can return for their high school degrees. This week, she took a stack of flyers with her to the school and had an encouraging conversation with one of the teachers. She told her of several students with tremendous need for "spiritual guidance" to whom she would give our information. 

Most recently this week, while having bulk printing done for FLORECE I was given a wonderfully encouraging opportunity to share our flyers.

One of the largest and most complicated colleges in Iquique is the Universidad Arturo Prat (UNAP), a state school which each year loses many weeks of classes due to student protests and unrest. This university also has an unusual hazing tradition whereby first year students are stripped of their clothing and belongings, dressed in black garbage bags and pelted with mud and eggs, then sent out on the busy streets to beg for enough money to "buy back"their items. The funds are then pooled to throw a wild party on the beach. Needless to say, the school has students with a wide range of ideologies!

Just outside UNAP is the most inexpensive copy shop in town. Literally, they charge less than half of what other places do so they have a huge student clientele. Unbeknownst to us, the owners are most likely Christians who when I asked to display one of our flyers went the extra mile to get the word out! "Why don't you tape one right here?" the owner encouraged, pointing smack-dab in the middle of the counter where everyone places their items to be copied. (There was nothing else displayed.) "And how about over there on the wall?" Numerous advertisements were taped there, so I placed mine off to the side where there was still ample space. "But what about another one right in the middle?" he urged. "That's where everyone looks."

Just this week, we interviewed a new volunteer who graduated from UNAP and said she had seen some of our flyers there - "on the ground." What an encouragement to instead be given free reign to post not one, not two, but three of them where none should be removed and many young people can't help but see them!

Flyer by flyer, we are sharing FLORECE. We are planting the seeds, and trusting the One Who brings the harvest!

Monday, November 14, 2016

No Other Word But Awesome (Ministry Monday Series)

One of the busiest weeks of ministry with FLORECE was also one filled with the greatest blessings.

Starting a brand-new ministry means a lot of "learning as you go." One of those areas for us was the creation of an application and screening process for volunteers. We found ourselves needing to apply the process retroactively, as the conception and birth of FLORECE had taken several years, with interested individuals joining along the way before we were ever a formal entity. Thankfully, our current group of ladies were gracious and committed to being "guinea pigs" (or as they say here in Chile, "conejillas de india") and willingly embraced these new requirements.

So it was that ministry colleagues Kim, Pam and I found ourselves hearing the personal testimonies of each of our FLORECE volunteers over the course of one very busy week as part of our newly established application process. It was an amazing privilege. During the course of the week, I wrote the following thoughts in my journal:
Such a tremendous encouragement to hear salvation testimonies during our volunteer interviews this week. What God has reminded me through them:
  • He seeks and finds us (placing people, circumstances in our lives at the right moment) 
  • His timing is not our timing, but is perfect 
  • Some plant, some water, God gives the harvest 
  • We never know what word of witness or invitation will touch the right person at the right time - so keep talking! 
  • No one is outside the reach of God's grace - no matter how long it takes or what they have done 
  • God uses crises in our life to draw us to Him 
  • No circumstance of our life is ever wasted if we are willing to let God use it (in this context, especially to help/encourage others) 
  • Keep praying and sharing with those you love 
  • God is always at work, even when we cannot see it 
  • Transformation after salvation is not always immediate; but God faithfully works in us
Every testimony was unique to the individual, but the truths above were consistently woven throughout each interview. Not only did hearing their stories deepen my admiration and gratitude for each of these special ladies, but it also increased my sense of wonder at the sovereign workings of our great God! There is no other word but awesome for the way He calls, connects, creates crossroads, and compassionately and patiently draws His children into fellowship with Him. I pray I remember these testimonies when I am tempted to give up on an individual or to grow complacent about sharing my faith. And I pray God blesses and uses each of these wonderful women who have placed their lives and stories into His hands to be a part of the ministry of FLORECE!

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Best Kind of Days (Family Friday Series)

Today held moments of the sort that make the best kind of days. Those moments tucked into a comfy corner of the couch, watching my family interact with laughter and joy. Those moments in the car with my older three, enjoying deepening conversations and silly banter. Those moments around the lunch table when everyone is relaxed enough to sit still and listen, and devotions go well, and thoughtfulness ensues.
Some of my favorite moments from today:
Driving with only Isabel in the car to pick up her sister and brother. Listening to her tale of taking the city bus with no available seats and struggling with balance, only to have one boy nudge another and in an act of chivalry, give both their seats to her and Eva. Talking of trips we've long planned to take together and asking questions about the future. Smiling at her quips and quick wit. Sensing that delicate balance between planning and pushing, when she reminds me in that teenage tone: "Mom! I'm only fourteen!"
Walking through Sodimac with an ever-growing boy who stills let me put my arm around him and sneak him side hugs in public. Exploring the aisles with my three oldest kids and gathering supplies for art projects at home. Deciding to not be uptight or in a rush and allowing them to giggle and attempt the self-checkout, working together to problem solve and even (gasp!) share the entertainment of a hand scanner.
Making my family happy with iced chocolate brownies after Daddy's delicious curry rice at lunch. Sharing a sad but appropriate story related to Psalm 1 and how it applies to us in real life as well as theory. Finishing another chapter in Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends and continuing to hope the message eventually sinks in!
Having my eleven-year old find me coloring a picture and join me. Seeing his creativity as he added dots and dashes for a splash of pizzazz. Telling him how much I like it and having him smirk and reply, "Mom! That's a praise!" And feeling oh-so-happy that he was actually listening to the brothers and sisters book a short while before. 
Interviewing my three boys with thirty-five questions about their "favorites." Observing their trio of different personalities in their attitudes and responses. Finding it sweet that Alec knows Ian so well, helping him fill in the blanks of his own likes and dislikes. 
Watching my husband head out the door to humor our oldest teenager. Knowing he is fulfilling Eva's desire for a witness to the tricks she has been teaching our dog Whittaker. Feeling happy to know Daddy will make his daughter so glad!
Laughing at Silas' newest trick as he sits on Pedro's lap and tries to repeat the word, "Touchdown!" Enjoying the sight of his chubby little arms flying up in the air in an exact replica of Daddy's cheer.
As time marches on and life moves at warp speed, these are moments to treasure. I am thankful for today, and for each and every one of these "best kind of days!" 

(Written on 11.07.2016)

Friday, November 04, 2016

What We Love about Daddy (Family Friday Series)

Daddy and kids after an evening of football on the beach

It was Sunday morning, and the eight of us were driving down the dusty desert highway in our seven-passenger van on the way to the airport. The motive for our trip was bittersweet. We were sending Pedro off for one week of meetings and training with other missionary men in Ecuador. While I was happy for him to have this very deserved time away to be sharpened and refreshed, the kids and I were going to miss him.

Silas has just woken up and missed the memo about the family picture :)

We had just completed a belated round of "What We Love about Silas" in recognition of his birthday. This is a family tradition whereby each person answers that statement as it relates to the birthday boy or girl. Silas had fallen asleep and was blissfully unaware of our sweet expressions of love, but we shared them anyway! I then suggested that - since Daddy was leaving us for a week - it might be nice to send him off with "What We Love about Daddy."

Daddy being silly for the camera on a boys'-only shopping trip

Several of the kids answered, "Because he's funny!" and "Because he makes us laugh." Owen had a list which included, among other things, "Because he makes me waffles every morning." (Owen's idea of waffles are toasted frozen waffles slathered in peanut butter and dripping with syrup!) I think somewhere in there was "Because he plays with us" - and he does, dodgeball in the front patio, football on the beach, frisbee golf on the Wii. If they had thought of it the boys should have said, "Because he reads to us," since they have spent months enjoying Daddy's voice renditions of various characters in the Redwall children's fantasy series many nights before bed. I reminded them they should love Daddy because he's the one who grills out for them - he did it two days in a row this weekend while I was at the ladies' retreat! - and they would be missing that while he was gone.

Daddy and the "Sweet Six" (baby Silas getting his eyes shaded from the sun!)

My answer was simply, "Because he takes care of us." I shared how the night before leaving, Pedro stayed up to season a roast and start slow cooking it in the crockpot so we would have lunch after church on Sunday. I told them how Daddy ground up two containers of coffee, put them in the freezer, and proceeded to give me careful instructions on how to make my coffee each morning since he wouldn't be home to do it for me. I didn't have to point out how he had sternly sat the kids down before we left the house in order to make it clear how he wanted them to help and obey Mommy while he was gone. 

thankful for a husband who makes me laugh and looks out for me

The list could go on, but maybe it should be called "How Daddy Loves Us." Long ago I learned that acts of service is his love language. He speaks it well! Thankful for the husband and father God has given us.

Monday, October 31, 2016

"God Used Me!" (Ministry Monday Series)

"God used me!" she exclaimed in awe and delight. It was a Friday evening at FLORECE, and we were about to close our doors when a client rang the bell. Just a few minutes before, Mercedes had stepped outside the center to look for someone to reach with a FLORECE flier. A woman at the veterinarian's office a few doors down took one and walked away. Shortly after, there she was at our entrance! She visited with two of our counselors that day and returned the following week for the first of several courses in prenatal preparation. 

To Mercedes in particular, it was a sweet gift from God to have been a part of reaching this client. She is not a regular volunteer but is currently out of work and looking to fill her time. Recently she asked if she might come to pray at the center and help out where needed. She especially enjoys handing out fliers around the neighborhood, and on this occasion was blessed to see immediate fruit from her labors.

missionary Pam Sharp (center) with Grace (left) and Jacqueline (right)

Fast forward several days, and on Wednesday morning we were nearing the end of a shift when the doorbell rang again. A young woman entered for a pregnancy test and met with two counselors. She set an appointment for the following week and also received with interest an invitation to the ladies' retreat at our church the coming weekend. 

As she left, again I heard words of wonder and joy: "God used me!" This time it was Grace, a widowed volunteer who had added an extra shift that day to fill in for me while I took my son to an appointment. On her way to FLORECE that morning, it appeared to her that the woman beside her on the bus seemed troubled. Grace offered her a flier and invitation to FLORECE, and it was that same woman who hours later appeared at our entrance.

handing out fliers on a Sunday evening

It is such a blessing to see God at work, not only in the lives of the few clients who have come through our doors so far but also in the hearts of our volunteers. Grace and another widow, Jacqueline, are on every afternoon shift and both have expressed what a difference FLORECE has made by giving purpose to their days. Others have shared similar sentiments, especially as they reflect on how God is redeeming their stories for those facing similar struggles and heartaches.

As a mom, it brings me special gladness to see my daughters Isabel and Eva participating in this ministry alongside me. They have learned to take the city bus from our home to FLORECE after school twice a week to assist in any way they can. Sometimes it is small tasks such as adhering labels to fliers, or joining other volunteers in handing them out. Other times it is standing in as an imaginary client for practice simulations. My daughters, too, are "blossoming" (FLORECE means "to blossom") in serving the Lord. Our first two clients came as a result of a Sunday evening Isabel and four other volunteers spent distributing fliers that Eva had helped to prepare. They did so on their own initiative and their own time. So they can certainly also say with joy, "God used me!"

Friday, October 28, 2016

And Then We Met {Happy 1st Birthday, Silas!}

Dear Silas,

One year ago today, we set eyes on each other for the very first time as the doctors lifted you from my womb and the nurses placed us cheek to cheek for one swift moment. It felt surreal. But in that moment, after months of holding our breath and praying for the best, by the grace of God you were here.

It was hours after our quick acquaintance that you came back to us. Those hours you spent resting in an oxygen tent and I spent with your Daddy, waiting and watching the clock and writing to loved ones about your arrival.

It was the greatest relief when finally the nurses brought you to my room and Daddy and I could take turns simply holding you and marveling at your existence. It was a very quiet but sweet time, gently watching as you tightly slept through your early hours of adjustment to the outside world.

The next day, your brothers and sisters and Aunt Jenn and cousins Micah and Kai all came to see you. We arranged for a photographer to take some pictures as you and your siblings met for the very first time. Excitement, nervousness and wonder filled the room as each one took turns holding you. Only big brother Owen held back, choosing to cautiously observe you for several days before carefully extending his arms to such a tiny bundle!

After one more night in the hospital, we were able to take you home. Again, it felt surreal after so many months of waiting and wondering to finally have you with us. As the days went by we all spent a lot of time watching you, holding you and enjoying your sweetness. And for twelve whole months, we haven't stopped. 

Today is your one-year birthday and your entire family celebrates with you. Your surprise arrival has truly been a gift to all of us. Your sisters light up with tenderness when you are around. Your brothers find such delight in making you laugh, in teaching you tricks, in keeping you in a constant state of entertainment as much as they can. Daddy and Mommy have learned all over again about sleepless nights followed by morning snuggles.

We have enjoyed learning your expressions, your quirks, what makes you laugh and (nowadays) what makes you mad! It has been a rich, full, exhausting and thrilling year alongside you. We are so glad God allowed you to travel and meet your grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins in the United States during this year. And yesterday we celebrated your first birthday a day early with your missionary "aunts," "uncles" and "cousins" in Iquique. You are such a loved little boy.

We thank God for your life and pray that you will come to know the Lord Jesus as your personal Savior at a young age. We trust and believe He has a tremendous future planned for you. We love you SO much! Happy 1st Birthday, Silas Eben Garcia!

All my love, Mommy

(L) October 28, 2015  (R) October 27, 2016

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Sweet on Silas

Silas in the arms of each of his siblings

"Look at him! He's so CUTE!" "Mom, did you hear what Silas did today?" "Look at Silas! Look at Silas!" "Check out what Silas is doing!" "Hi, Silas! I love you!" All these and more are precious words exclaimed over and over these past eleven months in our home. Ever so sweet, they are words expressed not only by Mom and Dad but even more frequently by Silas' five older siblings. To say this little baby is adored by his big brothers and sisters would be quite an understatement!

Isabel feeding Silas on a family visit to the beach

On a recent visit to Chile, my sister Terri had the opportunity to observe our kids over a period of time and in several different contexts. Later she remarked, "I think it's neat how much your older kids seem to really enjoy Silas." Thankfully, this is so true and I thought it would be special to write down some of the ways the Fab Five are truly "sweet on Silas!"

Owen on "Silas duty" at the airport last summer

Since Silas came, our new nickname for big sister Eva is "the baby whisperer." On those occasions when he is fussy and squirmy and needing to sleep, we call on her calming talents. Often she will turn Silas to face her, wrap his legs around her waist, and he will just lean forward and fall asleep. He never does that with Mommy and Daddy! Silas undoubtedly feels very comfortable in Eva's arms. Although she has her typical big-sister moments of aggravation when baby brother gets into her things, for the most part Eva delights in Silas' newest achievements. Over the past months she has often urged me, "Mom! Write this down in his baby book! Silas is doing something new!" (Unfortunately, so far there is no baby book ... this is, after all, baby #6!)

Silas resting peacefully on Eva during a brief season of sickness

Isabel is a big sister who likes to play, not only with Silas but with his brothers as well. She can be silly and giddy with them sometimes (which they all love) when she doesn't have her nose stuck in a book - or her Kindle reader, as the case may be! Isabel's nickname is Sissy. Most recently, she has taught Silas to do a high five which is adorable. He lifts his chubby little palm to hers and then claps for himself afterwards with a huge smile on his face! 

Alec and Silas keeping one another company at home

Owen has been in charge of teaching Silas such important things as the football roar and making him believe he has great power over his big brother. Owen will crawl close and tease Silas into "hitting" him, then flip backwards with tremendous showmanship as if baby brother had the power of the Hulk himself. Not surprisingly, this garners great delight from Silas! (And a bit of trepidation from his parents who hope Silas doesn't try his newly discovered "powers" on other unsuspecting small children!)

Alec and Ian enjoying new playground equipment with a very happy Silas

Speaking of delight, Ian can boast of obtaining the best belly laughs from Silas. The child could truly have a future in theater and loves to perform all kind of silliness for the joy of hearing his baby brother giggle. One of their favorite games involves Ian pursuing Silas on all fours and growling with gusto the closer he gets. Silas finds this absolutely thrilling and hilarious!

Ian entertaining Silas (and the photographer!)

Many mornings, Silas is awake before his brothers and sisters and anxiously awaits their arrival downstairs. At times he even stands at the baby gate and bellows up eagerly in hopes of some response from sleeping siblings. To his chagrin, it is mostly ineffective but eventually the first to appear is usually Alec. He goes straight to Silas with arms extended and is a loving protector of his little brother. Alec will often dash to close doors, secure gates and quickly grab Silas when he is headed for danger. He relishes the role of older sibling and is a great helper!

once the Fab Five, now the Sweet Six

As I watch my older children with their baby brother, often the thought comes to mind that every baby should be loved as much as he is. There is something so beautiful and bountiful about the sweetness they pour on Silas. I have learned more about loving by watching my "Fab Five" truly become the "Sweet Six!"

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

{Busy} Yet Beyond Thankful

FLORECE volunteers and missionary appointee Jenn Taylor

It was a busy, busy, busy (did I say BUSY?!) week. It was the week before officially opening FLORECE, with so many final details to coordinate and complete. On Sunday evening (September 25th) almost our entire volunteer staff was able to be present for the final training session of our current series, this time held in our training room at FLORECE. Our evening included an important time of questions and answers with Luisa, a lawyer friend who had offered her expertise, and a practical time of running through a client's visit so that we could all be on the same page regarding procedural matters.

legal workshop with attorney Luisa

Normally I am not one to be publicly emotional, but found myself close to tears as we prepared to end our time together. I reminded the ladies of how long and far many of them had come in the past three years of learning and growing towards pro-life ministry. We applauded two of our volunteers for their commitment to this most recent recent training series which lasted sixteen weeks. Wilma, one of our quietest and most tenderhearted ladies, did not miss a single class. And Catalina missed only the first one due to being out of town when we began. That is faithfulness!

practical training and observation

It was not the first time we had circled the reception area as a group to pray, but this time the weight of hope and expectation was upon us as we came before the Lord together. What a precious time it was. It is so humbling to be a part of this ministry, particularly to lead this special group of ladies who are stepping out in faith into something completely new and unfamiliar in Chile. To GOD be all the glory! We trust in Him to see us through.

words of challenge and encouragement

As I mentioned, it was a BUSY week! Knowing in advance that one of our teammates would be traveling out of town, with my husband's blessing I set aside Tuesday as a full day for me at FLORECE - covering first my own shift in the morning, and filling in for her afternoon shift. Other volunteers came and went according to schedule, but Catalina remained with me throughout the entire day. By closing time we had a list of things that needed to be purchased before Saturday, so we quickly headed to the Zofri mall before it closed and completed our errands in record time. All told, I left my house around 7:20 in the morning and did not return home until 10:20 that night. I am so very grateful for my family's patience and support through this transition!

counseling room mural in progress

We continued to push through many details as the week progressed and our official opening day on Saturday, October 1 approached. Friday was the final day to tackle what remained but there were no regularly scheduled shifts. Nonetheless a small group of us went to work, and I was blessed by the tireless efforts of my sisters in Christ who poured their dedication into tying up loose ends and making FLORECE look as beautiful as possible for those who might walk through its doors. 

Bebe Boutique in progress

Elisa carefully touched up some painting that needed a little TLC, working from morning to evening to get it completed. Maria patiently painted the door frames to our counseling rooms in the morning and again while corralling her busy four-year old son after she picked him up from school. Catalina spent hours painting beautiful flowers in our client bathroom and later applied her sewing skills to create a decorative yet useful finishing touch for that same room. At the end of such a busy week, I was beyond thankful for our wonderful ladies and their tangible commitment to the FLORECE ministry!

(L-R: Maria, Catalina, Elisa)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Adoption Conversations: Evolving and Revolving

Science is a favorite subject for our two homeschooling sons, both currently in 2nd grade. But recently Ian emerged from the schoolroom after watching the day's lesson and exclaimed in his own unique way, "Don't ask me anything! I don't want to cry again!" (In other words, asking to be asked why he was crying.) Surprised, I followed him back to the video screen and spoke with both boys about what had just happened. 

It turned out that their lesson that day had been on earthquakes, which in and of itself was no novelty due to our living in a very seismic country and experiencing strong movement on a regular basis. However, on this occasion the teacher had specifically shared details and photographs of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Both of our Haitian-born sons - then 25 and 21 months old - were still in their orphanage when the earthquake took place and we have spoken of it numerous times. We've also shown them excerpts from a news report filmed at their orphanage shortly after the earthquake, in which they are both specifically featured. Yet for whatever reason, seeing the images in the context of their school day was startling to them. Nor could either of them recall having seen the news report when I reminded them of it. It was as if they were hearing their story for the first time six years later.

We spent awhile that morning reviewing their lesson, its pictures, and then watching the news report again together. Ian and Alec were both very animated about wanting to return to Haiti to help in some way. It was an unexpected opportunity for what felt like a second-generation adoption conversation. We've had so many talks with the older three kids but it isn't a subject our younger boys raise often. However it reminded me that these conversations will constantly be both evolving and revolving, and it is important to be prepared, available and willing to go over the same information as often as requested according to each child's needs.

Fast forward a couple of months, and this evening the boys were chatting nonchalantly while working at the dining room table. In the midst of a completed unrelated conversation, Alec suddenly brought up the topic of their birth moms. Again it was an unscripted and meaningful opportunity to share a piece of their stories with them. It also turned out to be a reminder that their understanding is limited by their age and worldview awareness at each stage! One of the boys seemed to not understand that a baby could be born to an unmarried man and woman. He said, "So my birth mom is like Mary?" (Cue a theological discussion of conception via the Holy Spirit!)

What a privilege and responsibility it is to hold our children's histories and hearts in our hands. May God enable us to always share wisely, wholly and well the precious pieces of each one's early story even as He writes the chapters that are now unfolding, and those still to come!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Beginning to Blossom {FLORECE}

"Mom, how did you choose the name FLORECE?"  My son's question gave me a reflective pause in the midst of a bustling week of preparations. The word "florece" in Spanish means "to blossom" and by God's grace, the FLORECE Prenatal & Family Counseling Center has indeed "blossomed" in its final few weeks before opening to the community of Iquique. What has been beautiful to observe is that not only has the physical property itself been pruned and prepared, but the vision and commitment of our volunteer ladies has also flourished as they see this longtime dream come to fruition.

Some of our volunteers can trace their beginning interest three years ago to a pro-life conference held at our church in June 2013. Eight months later in February 2014, ten women traveled to Peru for a training conference and to visit a functioning pregnancy center first-hand. In the years since then, around thirty women have participated in some form of training. Some have stayed and some have gone, yet our core group has invested hours upon hours in studying, learning and growing to be ready for the opportunity that is now before us. 

For the past three weeks, the training that was only theoretical for so long has been transferred into practical application as our volunteers began fulfilling their weekly scheduled hours in the downtown FLORECE property. We are currently experimenting with a four-day-a-week schedule. This gives us a total of seven shifts with fourteen women committed to serve, generally in groups of three. While we are not yet open for clients, we are practicing exactly what it will look like when that happens very soon! Walking through the process, reading our literature, and role playing with one other has allowed us to see what works smoothly and where we need to make changes on forms and procedures. Safe to say, it has been both thrilling and nerve wracking as we realize our own limitations yet choose to trust in God's promised enabling.

It is in this context that I have truly seen our ladies "blossoming" into women of purpose, prayer and partnership with one another and the Lord to fulfill His purpose through FLORECE. It has been a powerful reminder of our roles and identity as the Body of Christ. None of us has all the knowledge or confidence or ability to carry out this ministry alone. Together, however, we instruct, encourage and challenge one another to step out in faith to serve the women and families of Iquique with God's love and in His name. To God be the glory for what He has done and WILL DO!