Close Encounters

Close Encounters: Claire

Remember Claire? She is great. We have become fast friends, due in no small part to For The Love and Dubsmash (but I’ve already told you that story). Now, here’s her story.

In her own woMerds: My name is Claire and I am pursing God’s brave adventure for life. I am a mom, a baker, a social media coordinator, a musician, a hobby collector, and an avid user of sarcasm. I am addicted to going to school and think that chocolate is really what grew on the trees in the Garden of Eden. I love people, theology, and chocolate, but not necessarily always in that order.

I saw their faces.

I had been in love with adoption for awhile. We had a family friend who was unable to have children and slowly adopted five children from all over the world. She saw my interest and began telling me about the process, sending me DVDs of their trips to pick up their children. It implanted in my heart a love for adoption and possibly a yen for travel. I wanted to adopt from middle school onward. But I had never been to an orphanage or seen their hardship. I did not really understand the need.

Then, one summer I was given the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Moldova and work with orphans. I took Russian all through college so I would be able to help with translating and I got to work with orphans, it seemed like God made this mission trip for me. I went thinking about how I was such an asset to this team and how lucky these children were to have us. I’m not sure I would have said that out loud, but the feeling was there. We were bringing them hygiene supplies and teaching them about the Bible, so we must be extra holy.

When we got there, we took the longest van ride of my life to a small city and got a few hours of sleep before we jumped into ministry. I grabbed my guitar, we packed up the hygiene bags, loaded the toys we brought, and bought food to share. When we arrived at the orphanage, I saw their faces. I saw these faces for the first time in real life. Each child so beautiful and valuable. It just hit me so deeply that this trip was not about me. As we handed out each bag and child after child fawned over their new toothbrush, or the sandwich we handed them, or were just so deeply happy to have someone there who wanted to play with them, God pushed all ideas of myself as savior aside. These children needed love, they needed Jesus. I am so glad we were able to tell them about Jesus, to read to them from the Bible, but I know that God was most present in kickball and red rover. Throwing the kids up in the air, playing with chalk, allowing them to play with our camera, that’s where God’s love shown through. Moldova

Every day we got to greet and get to know all these beautiful little faces. We saw their living conditions and how little they had, yet we learned so much from their unconditional joy. We hugged many children who had never been hugged and told them how much they are loved. They drew pictures for us, one little boy brought me a rose, and hugged us until our bodies ached. I would have given anything to bring even one of them home with me. Sasha, Elvira, Vadim, Misha, Elisa, Vanya. I will never forget their faces. That experienced turned me upside down. I could not spend my money the same way I had when I had seen what others lack. I could no longer pursue the desire for “more” when joy clearing came from having less. I had to spread the Gospel, I had to fight the orphans cause because I had seen their faces.

Currently we support children who are not available for adoption overseas, and are working to bring home a child from India. We cannot wait until our child is united with our family. I cannot wait to see their face.

Close Encounters: Jenn

Today, we are beginning a new guest series: Close Encounters. We all, at some point in our lives, cross paths with someone who changes us. Perhaps they change our perspective or our circumstance. Maybe we can’t exactly pinpoint the change, but we know we are different because of that person. Through these stories, we will step into these moments with each other. 

Meet Jenn. I had the joy of serving with Jenn in college as a Breakaway Ministries volunteer. She has a tender heart and loves well. She lets people in, even when it is difficult. Over the last several months, I have watched from the sidelines as she has let little loves into her home and her heart. It has been a beautiful journey to watch and she was so gracious and eager to share her close encounter with us all. me and sim

In her own words: My name is Jenn and I am a Texas-born gal who is now living in sunny SoCal.  I am a wife to
a creative VFX artist as well as a foster mother to two littles who have moved into their forever families.  I am a lover of coffee, adventure, fitness, people and sharing stories of how I see the magnificence of Jesus in the mundane things of life

Sixteen months ago a little girl showed up at my apartment and would change my life forever.  She was three months old at the time and came through our front door in the arms of her social worker with two grocery sacks of belongings.

We took Little Girl as an emergency placement and anticipated having her for six months.  She had already been through more challenges in her three-month life than I had been through in my twenty-nine years and we were eager to love her.

However, when Little Girl came into our lives, she would not look us in the eyes.  She cried more when we picked her up.  She had an expressionless face and shared no smiles.  Each time we tried to love her, it was rejected.

Several weeks later, when she woke up, I went in to get her.  Rather than scooping her up right away, I stopped and smiled at her through the crib.  She, for the first time, smiled back.  I made a silly face and she smiled more.  As we smiled through the crib bars that morning, I saw a little girl who was actually accepting love.  And it brought me to tears.

I don’t quite know how it is possible in a three-month old mind to comprehend grief, tragedy and hardship.  Or how it is possible in just 210 days to already know how to push away love if you’ve never experienced it.  But as I watched her that morning, I thought about how many of us do that very same thing.  How many times I’ve only loved or received love through the insulated barriers I’ve come up with to protect my heart.

That moment in the crib did not change everything right away.  But slowly we learned how to love her in a way she understood.  It was two months before she looked me in the eyes, even when I was feeding her.  Through labor, tears and the grace of Jesus, things began to change.

We got to have Little Girl in our home for 14 months.  And as we launched her into her forever family, we were shocked at how far God had taken her.  She was expressionistic, funny, and joyful. She would laugh, play with others, and give kisses.  We had watched as God broke down barriers in her heart and taught her that she was safe.

I feel like Little Girl did more for me than I ever did for her as her foster mama.

She taught me to love even when it hurts.

She taught me that sometimes love actually doesn’t come naturally, even for your children.  But, when love takes work, it almost feels richer.

She taught me that sometimes you have to love others through bars and that kind of love can actually demolish the bars residing in our hearts.

She taught me that love does conqueror all.

Most importantly, she taught me how vital it is to let myself be loved by Jesus and love others out of that transformative, powerful Love.