Tuesday, November 9, 2010

From Out of Nowhere

No words can describe God's power to amaze - it's deep, endless, skillful, incomprehensible. It's, well....amazing! The Biblical narrative itself is amazing. I'm wrapping up a seminary class on Genesis and have found it all to be amazing. Jesus the Christ, who we read about and follow today led a life on this earth that amazed many. Two thousand years later, He's still amazing millions.

In the feeding of the four thousand recorded in Matthew 15, the scriptures say, "Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at His feet; and He healed them." These people must have known there was something miraculous about Him. His reputation preceded Him. They had all heard how this man from Galilee (a very ordinary region) was doing extraordinary things.

He was bursting with life and power and energy! Everything He touched received a beautiful piece of that life and power and energy. For this scene in Matthew 15, the backdrop is a dark and cold - a forgotten place. The people there are sick, lonely and dying. Then Jesus passed by and as He touched things, the colors return. Things and people sort of wake up when the Son of God steps into their presence. After Jesus healed the people in this story, the writer explains, "The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel."

Here's where I'm going with this. I have been amazed by God once again. We are in the middle of this adoption; this very expensive adoption. Inexplicably, I have never stressed about the money nor where we would find it. Somehow, I knew God would provide us with the means to do the very thing He placed on our hearts. Each time large payments were due to our adoption agency, we have had just enough. Now we are at this unique point in our fundraising - we have done the yard sale, the 5K run, the T Shirts, the coffee, etc. etc. So now what? We still have thousands to raise and there's only so much of that stuff you can do before you just start annoying people.

From out of nowhere, I really believe Jesus has touched my wife and something that was formerly asleep is now awake. She is in the process of uncovering gifts no one knew she possessed. It started with simple cards like party invites, birth announcements and more on an Etsy site. Good photoshop work but nothing crazy. This continues to grow as she is completing 4 to 6 orders per week.

Then she compiled a cookbook with 300 recipes from family & friends. Every page is custom-designed and the cover is pretty nice. Her photoshop skills are growing every day. The cookbooks are selling one notch under "like hot cakes," whatever that is.

Also, we recently purchased a good camera for our upcoming trip to Ethiopia. Now, she has always taken lots of pictures of our kids with a simple point & shoot. Every now and then we would get some shots that were "keepers." But they were our kids so naturally we thought they were good photographs. But then she started experimenting with the new camera and getting really good. Lately, three of her friends have offered their kids as guinea pigs for an official photo shoot. Jenny reluctantly headed into the opportunity lacking confidence but reassured that she would at least make a little money for the adoption.

Long story short, check out these photos!! After only THREE official photo shoots, this is what God is producing in her. How do thirty-some years go by before one finds and opens this sort of hidden gift? I believe it's because Jesus has touched something inside of her and has loosed abilities and creativity placed in her long ago. In this way, Jesus continues to amaze. He continues to bring life and power and energy to those who place their faith in Him. Praise God!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Orphan Sunday - November 7th

This coming Sunday, November 7th, is National Orphan Sunday. People of God's church all over the world will give pause to the many millions of orphans around the world. Some estimate the total crisis now includes over 150 million children. This figure is growing at a rate of nearly 12 million per year.

This coming Sunday, many church goers here in America will be more bothered over the recent election results than the couple thousand children who will starve to death during our Sunday school and "worship" time. Nonetheless, we will give pause as we lift our pathetic worn out songs of praise. We'll oblige by airing a two or three minute video giving the fatherless a proverbial head nod. And most of us will walk away from that experience feeling better as if we have somehow contributed to the solution.

"Whoa! Slow down there, Duane. You sound angry." I guess I am. While I do not pretend to be the judge over anyone, we all stand before the one true Judge and He can see our actions. He can see our lives. He can see our hearts. He is watching as we indulge ourselves and ignore the needs of others around the world. He knows that His church is forgetting the orphan, the fatherless. And we will be judged accordingly.

Isaiah 1:17 urges the people of God, "Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. DEFEND the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows." Most understand that DEFENSE is hard work. In battle, in sport, and in Christ's community, defense is not for the faint of heart. If as a church we decide to remain weak-minded, fearful, complacent, silent and spineless, the blood of orphans will be on our hands.

Too many of us are unaware of, disconnected from, and completely uninvolved with the orphan crisis. Often we prefer to remain numb to the painful realities around us. So we settle for the status quo and avoid like the plague the rocking of any boats. Fact: God cares about orphans! Therefore, if I am going to be a God follower, by nature I must care about orphans. Is there any possible Biblical argument against this notion? More men and women of God must be willing to stand up and boldly proclaim the simple truths revealed in scriptures concerning this marginalized segment of the global population.

Do something! Today. Start asking questions. Begin praying. Consider emailing my friend at World Vision and sponsor a child on a monthly basis. Families - consider fostering a child or legally adopting a child. Network with others. Talk about the crisis at school and at work. Research the matter and come to your own knowledge and understanding of what's driving the crisis. Will it cost you? Absolutely. Can you possibly make a difference? Absolutely. Does the gospel demand it? Please...please believe that it does!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Status Change!

Yesterday we learned from our agency, America World, that our status in the waiting process has moved to "on deck!" This is great news and lines up with what we have been anticipating. While there are no guarantees, our referral should come as early as late November. Once we receive the referral, we will be traveling to Ethiopia for our appearance in court 6-8 weeks later.

With a few key events already planned next semester for our campus ministry, we hope this timeline holds. We would love to be traveling in late January or early February.

With the announcement, we also learned what fees will be due at the time of the referral. Once again, we are amazed at how God has provided just enough. Our fundraising is still on track. There will be another wave due once we begin making travel arrangements.

Please consider visiting
Jenny's Etsy site for your family's Christmas cards, birthday invites, birth announcements and more! Also, Jenny is offering custom designed cookbooks. These contain over 300 recipes from friends and family. The suggested donation for cookbooks is only $25. To order yours, simply send your request to jennydixon921@gmail.com and further instructions will be emailed to you. And last but not least, Just Love Coffee is would make a great stocking stuffer this year.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The adopting families support group at the University Church continues to grow! Over 20 families are now networked through this new ministry. If you or someone you know in the Tuscaloosa area is looking for a group like this, please do not hesitate to contact us for details or join our Facebook page. We would love for you to be a part of it all.

Of course, the support group is just one segment of the total orphan care ministry at University. The orphan care team will spur our participation in the worldwide Orphan Sunday, November 7th. The ministry will continue to raise awareness of the global orphan crisis, provide resources and encouragement in legal adoptions, point many to child sponsorship through World Vision, support families through prayer and fundraising, and much much more!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Adoptions from Ethiopia Rise

"As the overall number of international adoptions by Americans plummets, one country - Ethiopia - is emphatically bucking the trend sending record numbers of children to the U. S. while winning praise for improving orphans' prospects at home."

Read the full article at: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39636986/from/toolbar

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

King Kong

I had a really strange dream 2 nights ago. The following details are exactly as I remember them. Interpretations, anyone??

King Kong was close by and I was afraid. I and two other guys were in an abandoned bunker setting bombs & traps for the legendary giant gorilla knowing he would soon arrive. We were in the middle of nowhere. I heard the ground quake just like in the movies. He was moving. I popped my head up from the fox hole and he appeared on the horizon. I couldn't really make out the details of the large silouhette. But I hid.

We waited for him to come to us. The next time I looked out, King Kong was in the form of a GIANT Ethiopian girl. She was the size of Goliath. She had a tattered skirt and shirt. Over the shirt she wore a thin sweater. On her head was a bandana like scarf covering all her hair. The oversized girl was with six or eight other normal size children of various races and colors. They were walking side by side with linked hands. The Ethiopian girl was in the middle.

One of my partners raced out and began conversing with the unusual band of travelers. I was alarmed by his boldness and afraid for him still uncertain about what we were actually dealing with here. We did not yet know what Kong was going to do! I tried to warn him but it was too late. I just observed for a minute. When it was clear to me there was not a threat, I too went out to meet them.

I mean the interpretation seems pretty obvious but I've never really had very meaningful dreams. This one really caught my attention (needless to say!) What do you think about it?

SIDENOTE: If you are not already following Katie's blog (of Amazima Ministries)....you should be. I believe God has set her before us to create in us a much deeper imagination for the Kingdom of God. Her writings are worth quoting as they are indescribable. Her stories are beyond inspiring. They put flesh on what we know to be true in our hearts. She is taking what we acknoweldge with our brains and challenging us to exhibit Christ in our lives.

Take a look at this recent post from Katie.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Order Cook Books Today!

Jenny has worked long hours to bring you this FANTASTIC CUSTOM COOK BOOK. This unique collection is filled with over 300 recipes including entrees, soups, sides, salads, breads, desserts and more! Please consider ordering one or more copies today in order to support the costly adoption process. We can't do it without you! The suggested donations is only $25. These will make great birthday & Christmas gifts for the cooks in your family.

To order yours, simply send your request to jennydixon921@gmail.com and further instructions will be emailed to you.

If you would be willing, we would also be happy to enlist your help as a sales representative ;) We would appreciate you mentioning this opportunity or even gathering orders from your bible class, small group, workplace, school or club.

Please help us bring Selah Evette Dixon home in 2011!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Valley of Vision

Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox
that the way down in the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear a crown,
that to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine;
let me find Thy light in my darkness,
Thy life in my death,
Thy joy in my sorrow,
Thy grace in my sin,
Thy riches in my poverty,
Thy glory in my valley.

Great song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OT8aTjVZHVI

*This poem & song were forwarded to me by a friend - also adopting from Ethiopia.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Ethiopian Orphan Crisis

AN EXCELLENT ARTICLE FROM: http://takeyourvitaminz.blogspot.com/

"In Ethiopia, the orphan crisis did not receive the media scrutiny it deserved until recent years. High profile adoptions by celebrities including Angelina Jolie, and books, such as “There Is No Me Without You” by Melissa Faye Green, have helped educate many of us concerning the rapid acceleration of new orphanages in Ethiopia. I’m not talking one or two orphanages in a city, but rather five, six and seven orphanages within the span of a couple of years. But the crisis has not stemmed.

According to United Nations Human Development, United Nations International Children’s Emergency and Ethiopia Demographic and Health Survey, today there are an estimated 5 million orphaned and vulnerable children in Ethiopia; 800,000 of them are AIDS orphans. The country’s cities and villages are overwhelmed; Addis Ababa alone has more than 100,000 orphans. The system is overtaxed, and sadly, new orphanages are not the answer.

While most orphanages are built in good faith they are usually built in response to a crisis. In 2009, Americans adopted 2,277 Ethiopian children. It is easy to see that the numbers just do not add up even with the addition of other countries adopting from Ethiopia. We must be proactive in our approach and not just responsive. Orphanages should not be viewed as acceptable long-term solutions for children. Man has made orphanages for children, but God made the family for children. How then do we place as many children in families as possible?

Bethany Christian Services has started bringing together churches in the United States with churches in Ethiopia into long term foster care projects. These are one-on-one relationships; essentially, the U.S. church provides the necessary financing for foster care and the Ethiopian partner inspires its members to help find families and develop loving, local communities. The two churches coordinate their efforts in a symbiotic fashion, working not only on adoption issues, but also any other missions projects that they wish.

These figures I mentioned previously show that the future of Ethiopia’s children is heading toward a crisis of epic proportion if measurable and immediate action is not taken. The existing structure of orphanages can only do so much and a large number of orphaned children still remain helpless. They are lost, confused, hungry and crying out for a family that will provide them with the basic human need: unconditional love.

We must continue to create other ways of putting children in families. We must continue to direct our efforts in and through the Church. It is our responsibility as believers - it is our honor and privilege to be able to serve the least of these.

Via God’s Holy and Inspired Word:

James 1:27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.'"

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Dossier Complete!

Don't let me down, FedEx! Yesterday, our dossier was sent to AWAA in McLean, Virginia. (It would fall on a holiday weekend so they'll not get it until Tuesday.) There are some more hoops to jump through with the U.S. government next week. Supposedly, this takes 1-3 weeks and then our agency sends the dossier to Ethiopia and the official wait begins! Glad to be at this point.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Just an Update

I hold in my hand our first stab at a completed dossier! It took us a YEAR to get to this point but we are here. I faxed everything to America World just yesterday. Provided there are no major mistakes in our paper work, we may be looking for county/state certifications this week! Once everything is certified, we will overnight our dossier to Virginia. After about a week there (& more authentication), it will be sent to Ethiopia. Wheww.

Of course, the largest check to date will be sent with the dossier to Virginia. Praise God that we are ahead on fundraising and have more than enough saved to make the payment this time! We still need to save/raise the last third of our funds. Fortunately, we have time as the next payment is several months away.

Please keep us in your prayers!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Another Family Living Boldly

Check out this story - well worth the 9 minutes! This is precisely what our friends Adam & Amy Pierce are doing in Northport, Alabama. What an amazing testimony!

Living on the Front Porch

Monday, March 1, 2010

Retreat or Risk It All?

Get Ready! Another amazing challenge from David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham. Would love to hear your comments after watching!

David Platt: SBC Pastors Conference 2009 from Todd Thomas on Vimeo.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Brown House

Check out the following video made for the Brown House ministry here in Northport. We featured this ministry at this year's Gulfcoast Getaway. The response was overwhelming!

Friday, February 19, 2010

An Article from Telegraph.co.uk

Mr Rabeder, 47, a businessman from Telfs is in the process of selling his luxury 3,455 sq ft villa with lake, sauna and spectacular mountain views over the Alps, valued at £1.4 million.

Also for sale is his beautiful old stone farmhouse in Provence with its 17 hectares overlooking the arrière-pays, on the market for £613,000. Already gone is his collection of six gliders valued at £350,000, and a luxury Audi A8, worth around £44,000.

Mr Rabeder has also sold the interior furnishings and accessories business – from vases to artificial flowers – that made his fortune.

"My idea is to have nothing left. Absolutely nothing," he told The Daily Telegraph. "Money is counterproductive – it prevents happiness to come."

Instead, he will move out of his luxury Alpine retreat into a small wooden hut in the mountains or a simple bedsit in Innsbruck.

His entire proceeds are going to charities he set up in Central and Latin America, but he will not even take a salary from these.

"For a long time I believed that more wealth and luxury automatically meant more happiness," he said. "I come from a very poor family where the rules were to work more to achieve more material things, and I applied this for many years," said Mr Rabeder.

But over time, he had another, conflicting feeling.

"More and more I heard the words: 'Stop what you are doing now – all this luxury and consumerism – and start your real life'," he said. "I had the feeling I was working as a slave for things that I did not wish for or need.

I have the feeling that there are lot of people doing the same thing."

However, for many years he said he was simply not "brave" enough to give up all the trappings of his comfortable existence.

The tipping point came while he was on a three-week holiday with his wife to islands of Hawaii.

"It was the biggest shock in my life, when I realised how horrible, soulless and without feeling the five star lifestyle is," he said. "In those three weeks, we spent all the money you could possibly spend. But in all that time, we had the feeling we hadn't met a single real person – that we were all just actors. The staff played the role of being friendly and the guests played the role of being important and nobody was real."

He had similar feelings of guilt while on gliding trips in South America and Africa. "I increasingly got the sensation that there is a connection between our wealth and their poverty," he said.

Suddenly, he realised that "if I don't do it now I won't do it for the rest of my life".

Mr Rabeder decided to raffle his Alpine home, selling 21,999 lottery tickets priced at just £87 each. The Provence house in the village of Cruis is on sale at the local estate agent.

All the money will go into his microcredit charity, which offers small loans to Latin America and builds development aid strategies to self-employed people in El Salvador, Honduras, Bolivia, Peru, Argentina and Chile.

Since selling his belongings, Mr Rabeder said he felt "free, the opposite of heavy".

But he said he did not judge those who chose to keep their wealth. "I do not have the right to give any other person advice. I was just listening to the voice of my heart and soul."

Friday, January 29, 2010

Spirit of Adoption

The Spirit of Adoption is sweeping through the University Church in Tuscaloosa, AL. Praise God for the work He is doing on many hearts in this church family. FOURTEEN families are now on the adoption journey! 5 of those are domestic. The other 9 are international adoptions. The families have organized a support group meeting regularly. And watch out - we have our own logo (above) and Facebook group!! The church leadership is praying about what is happening and working to think of all the ways the congregation can love and support the adopting families as well. A general fund for donations has been set up and plans for an official orphan care ministry team are also in the works. In terms of long range plans, adopting families hope to begin a perpetuating fund to which we contribute some/all of our federal tax credits (The U.S. government does issue a substantial tax credit for adopting families - very helpful.) These funds could then be loaned at no interest to other families who decide to later join this area of God's mission. These truly are exciting and encouraging times at UCC. We pray that God's Spirit continues to fan these flames so that more and more families make the decision to adopt one or more of the many orphaned children of this world!

J. I. Packer (Influential Canadian theologian) in his book, Knowing God writes, "Our understanding of Christianity cannot be better than our grasp of adoption."