"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." John 14:18

Our Family

Our Family

Thursday, July 28, 2011

We have a court date!!!!!!!!!!!!!

WooHoo!! We finally got one! Lots of laughing and happy tears in the Hulshof House. We will be traveling to Ethiopia for our court date on October 17th. The courts will close from approximately 8/6-10/16 for the rainy season as they do every year. We are bummed that we have to wait longer on the girls but still so thrilled that we finally have a time frame.

Once we pass court, it takes 3-4 days to get an adoption deed. From that point, our case can be sent to the Embassy and we hope to have a follow up date 4-6 weeks after our court date, to go and bring the girls home FOREVER!

The process in Ethiopia has slowed down so much this year so it's difficult to know what to expect but our hope and prayer is that they might possibly be home by Thanksgiving.

We did learn that our agency director will be going to Ethiopia in August and she will be visiting with them again. We have already given her more presents and pictures to share with the girls. We are so glad that she will get to see them again soon and hopefully we'll have more great pictures to share with all of you.

Please continue to pray specifically for these things:
1. There are many families in our agency who still don't know where their children are due to the mass orphanage closings. Pray that God will calm their fears during this time and that these adoptions will still be able to proceed soon.
2. There are many other families who do know where their kids are but they are still waiting on a court date and the waiting can be SO hard. Please pray they get a court date before the courts close 8/6.
3. Please pray for our safe travel and that our necessary forms and paperwork are all there on 10/17 so that we can pass court the first time.
4. Please pray for a swift Embassy date so we can bring our daughters home soon.
5. Please pray that God will continue to do a work in our family as we prepare to change our family dynamic. We are SO excited about our adoption but we know that it will come with challenges so pray that God removes some of those stumbling blocks.

Thank you for your support and for praying for us and our girls. We feel these prayers - Can't tell you how much it means to us.

Valerie & Chris

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Africa Shirts

Many of you have asked about the shirts so I've moved them to a permanent place on our blog instead of just having them in a post. That will make them much easier to see :-) If you are interested, I've placed several sample pictures in the right column of our blog along with the necklaces and earrings. These shirts are customized to whatever size (infant to 2XL), shirt color and Africa pattern you'd like for only $15! They are washable (just turn inside out and wash on cold, you can put in dryer but they do better if hung up to dry). They are safe to iron. Thanks to the many of you who have purchased shirts to help support our adoption fund.


Friday, July 15, 2011

More Turmoil in ET

It saddens me to share more bad news about ET. The adoption process is continuing to experience more and more turmoil due to changes in regulations, government investigations, etc. Things began to take a turn for the worse around February and here lately, it seems it's always more bad news from ET. We did learn on Monday, that our agencies court cases can resume (they have been on hold for 7 weeks due to an investigation but everything turned out fine with them and all other agencies involved). That was very welcome news however, we have now also learned that over the past week, 40 orphanages have been closed unexpectedly by the government and the children have all been taken to an unknown location. No one is sure if this is a temporary thing or why this has happened. The orphanages are all privately funded so it's not a financial thing. There is much speculation for why the orphanages have closed, stemming from investigations into how much they contribute to required humanitarian aid chairities to living conditions, etc. It is all very overwhelming and confusing. We've been told by our agency's in country rep that he is hopeful that the adoptions of these children can still take place eventually and he expects this to blow over soon but again so much is unknown.

All of the orphanages that have closed have been in the southern region. Our girls have NOT been taken, Praise the Lord. They are in an orphanage which is 2-3 hours north of the capital Addis Ababa. We are praying that there are no more closures and this is not a trend that will continue northward. Chris and I were on a 6 hour conference chat with our agency and other families last night. Almost half of our agency's pending cases that have referral children have had their children taken as a result of the closures. Over 250 kids in all have been taken so there are many other agencies and families affected by this as well. There were families who showed up at court in ET yesterday for their court visit only to find out that the location of their child(ren) is unknown due to these unexpected closings. It is heartbreaking and we know many of these families. They are devastated. It is still our hope that the in country rep is correct and things will resolve soon and the adoptions can still occur but it is a frightening time for all of us. Please continue to pray for Hannah and Abekeya. Pray that they will remain safely in their orphanage and that we will receive a court date soon. Pray that when we do, all of the paperwork is complete and available so that we can pass court the first time and bring them home soon. Please also pray for these other families who are hurting and waiting to find out about their children.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Everlasting God and Some Great News

I've shared with you guys before that the Jeremy Camp song "Everlasting God" has become a very personal and meaningful song for Chris and I during this adoption process. This song seems to follow us and we just happen to hear it at pivotal times during this journey. The first time I can recall, was when we were in church and the night before we had learned of the massive slow down from MOWA on issuing the letters required to pass court in Ethiopia. This was a very discouraging time for us and I cried through the whole song at church as I thought of the words and how our "Strength will rise, as we wait upon the Lord". My friend Kelley (who I blogged about earlier this week :-) ) was sitting behind me and she put her hand on my shoulder and comforted me as I tried to get ahold of myself in the service. A few weeks later, we learned we had been submitted to court and again, this song was sung in our church service and this time I was beaming. Kelley leaned over to me and said you seem a lot better than you did when last we sung this song :-)

Chris went on a mission trip with our youth group a few weeks ago to Orange Beach. As you know, our agency has been on hold with all their cases for approximately 6-7 weeks now...yet another roadblock. One morning while on the trip, he got up early and walked down to the beach to have some alone time with God. Something about the ocean reminds us just how small we are and how big He is. Chris had his ipod on and was worshipping in song and guess what came on? You guessed it :-)

I am now SO pleased to tell you that we got word yesterday from our agency that the government investigations are complete and all cases are resuming again. Our case director is calling all families who were affected by the hold in the next couple of days so we are hoping to hear from her today or tomorrow to find out more details. Still no court date yet for us but now that things are moving again, we hope this will come soon. So right after we got the email that things are resuming, I went to tell Alex and Averey the good news. Averey was playing in the bathtub and I walked into the bathroom to tell her and guess what she was singing? She said "Mommy we learned this new song in vacation bible school this morning. Want me to sing it for you?". I think God has an amazing sense of humor sometimes. I started laughing and crying all at the same time! And Averey and I sang the song together. For those of you who haven't heard it, heres the video (be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the blog first and hit pause on the automatic playlist box so you won't hear both songs simultaneously).


God Works in Mysterious Ways :-)

We took a mini vacation to Florida this past week and while I was cleaning out the car to prepare for the trip, I found a McDonald's toy under the seat. Averey had gotten this little brown monkey with big ears in her happy meal a week or so ago. While I was cleaning the car, I was praying and crying as well - I do that a lot lately. I miss the girls so much that it is hard to bear sometimes and I find that in the quiet moments when I'm doing mundane stuff by myself like packing or cleaning, etc, the longing for them is even stronger. Anyway, while I was picking up crushed goldfish and cheerios from under the seat, etc. I found this toy and tossed it into a bag to take inside. When I tossed it over my shoulder, it shouted "Africa!". Naturally I thought I was hearing things so I fished it out and pushed the button again and again he exclaimed "Africa!". Guess it sounds silly but it felt like that was God letting me know that it's going to be okay. He hasn't forgotten about us or our girls and they will be home in His time. I'm sure many probably think that was a coincidence but I know better :-)

I found out a few days later that the monkey was actually from the Madagascar 2 movie. Ironically (or maybe not :-) ), we just so happen to take the kids to see this movie at the theatre for Kid Tuesday where they show older movies for a $1. Again another reminder :-) The WHOLE movie was about Africa and Alex the lion even has a special mark of Africa on his paw. I'm sure I was the only one sitting in the theatre at Madagascar 2 struggling not to get choked up :-)

Why would the kids get a toy at McDonalds last week from a movie made 2 years ago? I think it was because God knew I'd need that little reminder that even with the outcome of the whole world is on His shoulders, He still miraculously remembers me and hears my prayers. He remembers my girls. And I don't mean a half hearted recognition of us. He knows us and loves us intimately and personally. He knows the number of hairs on our heads. Wow. We serve an awesome God. I'm reminded of a song we sang in church as a child. His Eye is on the Sparrow and I know He watches me. Thank you God for your love - it is such a pleasure to belong to you.


Friday, July 8, 2011

Prayers for Kelley Williams in Ethiopia and a Few Neat Numbers

One of my best friends just landed during the night in the beautiful country of Ethiopia. She is traveling with Kelly Putty and the Ordinary Hero group on a mission trip to visit and advocate for orphans who don't yet have families. Most of you know, it was while listening to Kelly Putty's testimony and the mission of the Ordinary Hero Foundation that God spoke to us about adoption so this ministry holds a special place in our hearts.

While checking facebook for thier current status this morning I learned a few astounding numbers about their trip so far. There are 28 people going on the mission trip and they each brought around 100 lbs of donations with them (max allowable to check at the airport). They each carried their personal belongings as carry on baggage so that all their checked luggage could be things they could give to the children (toothbrushes, toys, clothes, etc). They had over 1300 lbs of donations! Wow - so awesome!

The next astounding number is that from Nashville to Ethiopia, they traveled nearly 7700 miles by plane! About a 16 hr flight. That's a lot of peanuts:-) Then after this long flight, they were held up at security for another 5 hours while all 1300 lbs. of donations were inspected. I bet that made for some crankiness :-)

We had hoped that Kelley would be able to visit our girls (and there still is a slim chance) but so far the itenerary doesn't include a visit to their orphanage. The main reason is their orphanage is a few hours away from where they are staying and all the children there have been matched with families already. OH's main mission is to visit and advocate for those kids who don't yet have families. We sent a few presents with Kelley just in case she gets to see them. We hope that it works out but totally understand if it doesn't. We would never want to take time away from them visiting with other kids and taking photos and information to bring back to the US so that other families might find their children.

Thank you Kelley and other OH travelers for giving your money and time so unselfishly to put action to God's work. Thank you for sitting on a plane for 7700 miles and 16 hours and for sitting in security for 5 hours and lugging around hundreds of pounds of stuff for these precious little kids. And that's just the first day :-) I know you will bless and be blessed for what you are doing. God is good. Here's a little quote that Kelley had on her blog (mytwosons-kelley.blogspot.com for those of you who want to visit it) and I cried when I read it because it is SO true. "It has been an absolute privilege for me to watch the hands and the feet come together and join with me on this trip. A trip that was born of a love for people that I don't even know. I asked Him to break my heart for what breaks His. And He has (or at least He has begun to.....I have this sneaky feeling that this is only the beginning)." I love you my sweet friend. Godspeed.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

A little more heartbreak

We were notified last night that Ethiopia has unexpectedly closed several orphanages in the south region. There is no known reason and no known outcome for what will happen to these children. Our daughter's orphanage has not been affected by these closings but this event is yet another disturbing piece of news in the unstable adoption process in Ethipia right now. Lots of tears in the Hulshof household last night. PLEASE continue to pray for Hannah and Abekeya and for the other children and families that are waiting to be united. We know God is in control and is bigger than all of this but our hearts are still heavy and it's difficult not to worry. Our court date is still on hold. We are praying to hear some good news soon. Thank you for your continued prayers.