Africa Trip – April 3-4

[Behind? Catch up with posts one, two, three, and four.]

Thursday, April 3, 8:30 AM
We were finishing up a breakfast of French Toast (again on the coal pot) when Rick and Paula returned from their getaway. We survived without them, but I won’t lie – it was good to see their American-African faces again.

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10:00 AM
Because of the lack of gas, it was necessary to go to the city today. Chance and I had a few errands we were wanting to run while there, so it was a good excuse to go.

We headed to Freetown (which was previously a two hour car ride away, but a new paved road has opened and it is now closer to an hour drive).

Louis is going to have a difficult time adjusting when we get back home – he’s gotten used to not needing a carseat. The laws here are not as concerned with the well-being of the children as they are with the adults. Seat belts are required (Chance learned that the hard way and was almost arrested a few days ago for not wearing his), but babies can sit in an adult’s lap in the front seat. Louis loves being able to watch out the window, and has done beautifully, even on a three-hour car ride once. I’ve enjoyed the fact that I can nurse him while we travel (one less thing to plan around!)

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Our first two stops in the city were at the grocery stores. These stores are more modern than anything you’d find in the village. It appears they import many of their products from Europe. The selection isn’t too great and the prices are high, but I’m sure Rick and Paula get excited to see familiar items like cereal and peanut butter!

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(Nasko almost didn’t get this Kit Kat because his goofy parents didn’t recognize the packaging and assumed there were no Kit Kats in Africa!)

12:00 PM
We were able to get the gas refilled, so now it was time to find a place to eat some lunch. It was noon, but Africans rarely eat that early, so we struggled to find somewhere that was open. We did find a “bar and grill” that was right on the beach. They claimed to be open, but took a long time to make our food despite us being the first customers of the day!

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(We waited for our food by running away from the waves – Nasko’s pants still ended up sopping wet… In the background, a group of men are pulling in giant fishing nets.)

1:30 PM
We made a few more stops in the city – post office, local market, etc., before heading to the World Market. This is a large, two-story building which contains hundreds of “shops” with handmade goods from Sierra Leone. We bought a few things – including a wooden mask that looks like a lion (Chance picked it out. I’m praying it doesn’t survive the trip home!) and I got a hammock for our back yard (I had asked for one for my birthday/Mother’s Day!) The market is, of course, very authentically African, so after haggling prices and enduring somewhat inappropriate comments from shop owners, we were good to go!

3:20 PM
On the way home from Freetown, we stopped to see the house where Tyler and Sarah Miller will live. We wanted to take measurements and videos to help prepare them before they moved here. As bummed as I am that my best friend is moving to the other side of the planet, I absolutely cannot wait to see what God is going to do in Sierra Leone with their family!

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Their new house has money signs on the porch. For real. It truly doesn’t get much better.

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Oh, and this bathroom incident happened there:

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7:00 PM
No one got much rest today as there was no time for naps, so we are all hitting the hay exceptionally early!

Friday, April 4, 9:30 AM
We loaded into Rick’s van and headed back to Briggitte’s church. During the week, the church is being used as a pre-primary school.  Lifegate heads up the school, so it is a Christian school that is open to all the preschool kids in the area. God actually had been planting the idea for this school in two different people’s minds and hearts, so when they got together, it all made sense.

While at the school, Chance got to interview the teachers and staff. His job is to go back to the states and try to find support to pay these workers a small salary. He’s hoping to appeal to educators here, who understand the importance of starting education with very young children.

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The Educators:IMG_2291 IMG_2293 IMG_2297 IMG_2299 IMG_2300 IMG_2303

(The kids were dressed for Sports Day – which I’m learning is more like Sports Week – in their yellows and blues.)

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10:30 AM
The interviews did nothing but confirm that my children needed naps, so Rick returned the littles and I to his house and he, Moses, and Chance headed off to complete their tour. They returned to check on the construction of the orphan homes. The final steps that needed to be completed before the boys could move in were (1.) finishing the latrines and (2.) fixing the doors.

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(Jane’s husband, Paul, is an amazing carpenter – especially when you consider his lack of resources!)

The final stop on Rick’s tour was to see the piece of property that Lifegate is hoping to purchase. A new airport is being built near this land, so it will soon become prime real estate. Chance has been working since January to raise the $12,000.00 needed to secure this land. The vision of Lifegate is to then use the land to house an orphanage, a conference center, guest houses (hotels) and a radio station.

Right now though, the property looks like a bunch of weeds to me:

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(Moses used his GPS to find the coordinates of the property so Chance can look it up on Google Earth and have a topical view. Technology.)

After the boys woke up from long naps, we spent the rest of our day playing outside on the porch where there was a nice breeze.

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(Louis and Esther – Jane and Paul’s adopted daughter.)

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(Jane enjoyed watching Nasko “drive a bus” on his iPad.)

 

[Stay tuned!  We're not home yet!]

Africa Trip – April 1-2

[Installment number four.  Here's links for one, two, and three.]

April 1, 7:00 AM
It may be April Fool’s Day, but our kid is no fool! Louis just said “Taty” for the first time. It comes out sounding more like “Ahhhhhtee,” but oh my goodness, how adorable!

(Sorry there’s no picture with this video!)

7:30 AM
Louis said “Taty” in our bedroom about 20 times. Now that we are outside with everyone, do you think he would say it once?!

9:00 AM
Chance is leaving for another day of teaching pastors and other church members in Briggitte. He’s leading a study based on the book, “They Smell Like Sheep” and is teaching on the qualities of leadership.

The boys and I are hanging out around the house today.

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(Louis, teaching Paula a thing or two about the iPad.)

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(Clean water in Africa is sold in bags. Now, if you are holding a Ziplock in the right way, my baby comes crawling over to suck on the corner of it…)


11:00 AM
Got the kids down for early naps because we plan to go to the beach this afternoon.

1:00 PM
Grace and Jane are heading to “Sports Day”. This is a once-a-year day of competitions within the village. The citizens get together and organize races and other challenges. Rick and Paula told Grace that she could decide between attending sports day or going to the beach with us. Grace debated, but finally said that since sports day only happens once a year, she would do that. This was a big deal in the Miller house because it was her first time doing something independently with Jane, without her parents! World, our little Gracie is growing up!

Chance and Rick stopped by the Sports Day on their way home from the conference.  The kids were divided into two teams – blue and yellow.  They looked so cute!

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1:15 PM
Ahhhh… The beach.

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2:30 PM
I’ve been reflecting on the somewhat negative reception of Nasko and his special needs:

When I was here previously, many villages had not seen many white people. They treated us like we were celebrities. Now, three years later, white people are not quite as rare. They still aren’t common in the villages, but more and more white people have at least come to visit.

The thing that seems to attract attention this trip is Louis. Even if white people come visit, they typically don’t bring their 10 month old baby with them! Many of the Africans have never seen a white baby.

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Nasko is slightly confusing to them too. His skin doesn’t match ours, so that’s perplexing. We had one man ask who was in our family. We introduced the boys and he then turned to our translator and asked again. He wasn’t sure he was understanding properly!

On top of looking a little out of place, Nasko is… well… Nasko.

He is overly friendly and is very hard for Krio-speaking individuals to understand. (Although, the child has learned how to say “chicken” very, very clearly this trip!)

We’ve encountered a few people who have been less-than-understanding about Nasko’s differences.

One man, who is close to Rick and Paula, waited for a moment when he thought I wasn’t around to confront Nasko on his behavior. I watched this man grab Nasko’s arm, give him a quick shake, and lecture him harshly on the need for being a good little boy before I was able to intervene. If only that chat could fix everything, man… I later told Paula about this incident, and she took the opportunity to teach the man about orphanages and about special needs.

One other instance involved a woman at the beach. This woman has been Rick and Paula’s waitress on many occasions. She’s become a familiar face to them. On our second trip to the beach, she stood and stared at Nasko for a long moment. He was probably tic-ing like a madman (caused by wrong timezone, heat, lack of sleep, anticipating playing in the ocean, etc). When he saw her staring at him, he took a sudden interest in her. With disgust in her voice, she said, “What is your problem?” When he didn’t answer, she returned to taking our drink orders, but her words still hurt me.

I’m sure the people in the United States who encounter Nasko think similar things or feel the same way about his disobedience, but there’s a different level of tact there. The feelings and questions of onlookers are typically not just blurted out.

5:45 PM
Faith, Chance and I bid Rick and Paula farewell as they had booked a room at the hotel on the beach in order to celebrate their anniversary. They have not had a getaway for the past seven years, so Chance and I were thrilled to be able to minister to them by watching their children for two nights!

April 2, 7:50 AM
Moses is here! Moses is a Sierra Leone native who now pastors in Liberia. He serves as an advisor and support member to Rick and Lifegate. He’s also been used as a translator and body guard (he fought in the war – no one messes with Moses). Everyone who meets Moses loves the man, as he has so much biblical wisdom. We really wanted to be able to see Moses while we were here, and he travelled all day and night to ensure that we would be able to! Grace and Faith were equally as delighted to see Moses walk through the door!

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9:00 AM
Chance and Moses left to teach a conference in another village (whose name translates to mean “Big Butt”).

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I’m at home with four littles, so we are spending the morning getting cleaned up, playing, and reading books.

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Jane has been sent to market for a few staples (mangos, pineapple, bread, popcorn). I also asked her to cook our lunch. I’m trying to decide if I can bring Jane home with me…

12:30 PM
Jane made rice and greens with dried fish for lunch. Chance and I could probably eat African everyday. Sooo yummy. Nasko and the girls could have skipped the greens though…

2:40 PM
With Moses’ help, we got a car and headed to the orphanage. I have no idea how one even gets a car here, so I’m glad that wasn’t my job.

4:15 PM

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(Rick and Paula’s daughter, Faith with Zinub.)IMG_2209 IMG_2210

(Victoria, the female caregiver and the orphanage cook.)

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(This is James.)

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(Paul – or as the kids call him, Georgie Porgie.)IMG_2223

(Paul was seriously neglected and abused in his previous home. Despite his age and his abilities, he did not learn to walk until about a year ago. CROH has been a huge blessing in his life!)IMG_2233

(I taught Faith how to take a “selfie.” There are just some things that must not go untaught from the American culture…)

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(Aminata with Deborah.)


Letty (the newly hired nurse for CROH) arrived to administer medicine and do the twice-weekly physical exam. Poor little Davey has malaria and James had to get a shot because of problems with his ears.

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Both boys cried and cried and reminded me that these children are still truly orphans.

The kids at CROH are intelligent, well-adjusted, and polite, but they still have no one to sit and hold them as they cry because they don’t feel well. They also don’t have anyone who will comfort them and buy them an ice cream cone after they endure necessary shots.

The caregivers at CROH are wonderful people who love on the kids everyday and night, but they in no way are a replacement for parents. Please pray that Sierra Leone will someday open their doors to international adoption so that these children can receive the love and care that was designed for children.

(And so that they can all come live with the Newinghams…)

4:35 PM
I finished painting the fingernails of the girls who were in the orphanage this afternoon. (The big girls were still in school while we were there.) This was a great way to spend one-on-one time in the girls’ intimate space. I enjoyed this bonding time with each of them. And since Nasko picked out the polish colors, they all have neon nails now!

We also took this time to pass out some of the sponsor gifts.  A few people asked us to deliver care packages for their specific kiddos, so we did! Those kids felt extra special!

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(Victoria’s daughter, Nay-nay, was showing off the bracelet she received.)

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(Hasanatu with neon nails and bracelets to match!)

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(Joseph and his care package.)

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(Raymond with his goodies.)

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5:05 PM
On the way home from the orphanage, we made a quick stop at the market for a few things. This time, we parked in “the pit” where all the taxis sit and wait for their passengers. As we hopped out and I wrapped Louis onto my back, we created quite the stir! Moses translated some of their comments for us, and they couldn’t believe what I was doing. Then, many from the group began following us through the market. At one stop, I turned around and saw 30-40 people gawking at us!

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5:50 PM
While Jane was cooking lunch, the gas from the stove completely ran out. She was able to finish cooking outside on her coal pot (similar to the idea of a charcoal grill). The lack of gas slightly altered our supper plans, but Jane came to the rescue again with the coal pot. Chef Chance took a skillet outside and fried up some hot dogs. I prepared some fresh pineapple and mango and served a leftover cold chicken salad. We’ve got this! (Thank goodness for Jane!)

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[Stay tuned for more!]

Africa Trip – March 30-31

[This is journal entry number 3.  Here's one and two in case you missed them.]

 

March 30, 9:00 AM
It’s Sunday, so it’s church day! I’ve been to church here a couple times now, and I still can’t tell you what time it is supposed to start. We left the house at 9:00 though. Sierra Leone is so primitive, hardly anything has an actual strict start-time. Things start when people show up! Our family is very schedule-oriented (thank you, Nasko’s orphanage and two parents who are a bit OCD) so this is a difficult concept to grasp for us.

When we arrived at church, it had already begun.

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Since I was here the last time, Rick and Paula’s girls (Grace and Faith) have started a children’s program during the adult services. It’s great! The kids meet on benches behind the church building and are being taught stories from the Bible, based on the same Bible-telling methods being used in the Bible-Telling School.

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Today, the children were learning about Noah’s ark. They began their time by playing some games (Musical Bench – as opposed to musical chairs, Simon says, Telephone, and an African version of London Bridges called Lappa Lappa). Next, they reviewed last week’s story (just like the kids in the US, they had completely forgotten anything they might have learned just seven short days ago). Then Grace taught them the story for this week. Following the lesson, the children acted out the Bible story. The coolest part about this? Grace and Faith are 11 and 9 years old and have learned the Krio language well enough that the whole lesson is done in the children’s native tongue.



Meanwhile, the adults were inside the church having something like a Sunday School time. I have not mastered Krio (it has many similar words to English, but a different grammar structure and accent which makes it somewhat possible to understand if you are listening very, very closely) but the discussion seemed to be about what the Bible says about marriage – specifically having just one wife. Now, I’ve never heard anyone spend a significant amount of time on that topic in the US, but here, where the predominant religion is Muslim, this was a scripture that needed to be discussed.

Following the discussion, “Reverend Chance” was asked to come and preach. Chance delivered a sermon (with the help of one of Lifegate’s pastors, Pastor Jonathan, translating) about not believing that salvation is given because of who we are descendants of. It doesn’t matter how religious your parents are, or the fact that your uncle pastors a church. What matters is that we have a personal relationship with Christ.

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After the sermon, there was much pomp and circumstance for our benefit (mostly recognition of the different people in the church who volunteer). Rick said that is a typical practice when visitors come to the church. There was also a time of singing and dancing and praising and worshiping! The church’s minister, Pastor Justus, recently married a woman named Felicia, who was leading worship at a different church previously. She makes pastors’ wives around the world look bad… She can sing and dance and get everyone excited about worshipping! (Sorry… Inside joke with pastors’ wives. It’s often hoped that we can play the piano and sing.)

Nasko was having a rough morning (we WILL conquer jet lag, we WILL conquer jet lag) but he did enjoy the music here. He even showed off some of his moves by hopping on stage and dancing with Pastor Justus.

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At the end of the service, Justus asked Nasko to lead a song, so he and I went up and sang “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands.” This song was apparently a crowd favorite, because after one verse, they erupted and joined in! It was beautiful.

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What a true message that song presents; God does have the WHOLE WIDE world in His hands. We can be part of God’s plan for helping His people who live on the other side of the planet. We cannot forget about them or pretend they don’t exist, just because they don’t live in the USA. As the quote goes, “WHERE you live should not determine IF you live.” We must remember that God has the whole world in His hands.

4:50 PM
After good, long naps for everyone (Sunday rest is biblical, after all) Chance, Nasko, Louis, Rick and I ventured to the Waterloo market. It is an insanely busy few streets that are just packed with “stores” selling a variety of goods.

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We went specifically for Nasko, as his flashlight had completely stopped working during the previous night. With a lack of electricity here, it is absolutely pitch black at night (think no street lights or neighbors’ lights).

Nasko was able to score a nice little battery-powered lantern, so he was happy about that.

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We also took some time to shop for the fabric to make a babywearing sling for the girl in the orphanage who probably has cerebral palsy (Deborah).

The market is so crazy that I would feel very uncomfortable trying to carry Louis while walking safely. The roads, although paved, are uneven and treacherous. The shops butt up to the edge of the street curb and cars and motorbikes go wizzing down the road, assuming that everyone will move out of the way. For this reason, I tied Louis onto my back in one of my wraps before we even stepped foot outside the van. Louis – who has been enjoying looking out the window as we drove through the market previous days, really enjoyed his safe place to watch all the commotion.

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Somewhat surprisingly, wearing Louis on my back attracted a lot of attention. Women regularly “po-po” their small babies here by doing a torso carry and wearing them low on their backs. Apparently though, it’s shocking to see a white woman po-po a white baby! So many people commented and wanted to touch Louis as we walked from store to store! Considering I was first inspired to research babywearing because of the hard-working African mamas I observed almost three years ago, I couldn’t believe that wearing Louis on my back would be so out of place to the people here!

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(No I don’t know the person touching my baby. And yes, those are giant freezers on that dolly behind me.)


March 31, 9:54 AM

[From my Facebook Page:]

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(Jane is talking about her fear that the fowl might try to fly. Nasko is saying “piece of Kit Kat?!” because Chance promised him a Kit Kat if he caught the chicken. I’m the one telling the birds they aren’t welcome inside… Right after this video, both chickens broke into the house and one of them tried to nest under my bed!)

3:35 PM

Chance has been conducting a leadership conference all morning,

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and I finally feel like my children have adjusted to the time change. Naps were appropriate lengths and taken without a fight. Food was eaten at mealtimes and attitudes are getting better! The little things are so important when traveling overseas with your kids!

4:50 PM
Everyone is finally awake from their naps so it’s a great time to head to CROH.

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(Chance always asks if the kids have questions about America. It’s cool to hear what they’ve been wondering.)

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(Here he is drawing a world map and explaining where E is from.)

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(Rick may or may not have been trying to tickle Frank…)

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(Junior, who is typically too cool for his own good, showed a momentary soft-spot and let Nasko ride his bike.)

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(Nasko wearing Frank’s glasses!)

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(Rick’s daughter, Gracie, has a huge heart for the kids in the orphanage.)

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(See? Too cool for his own good.)

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(Relay races with Chance.)

(Chance, smoking the kids in a foot race. That’s my husband – outrunning a bunch of kids and then being sore for days…)

(Nasko and sweet Zinub racing.)

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7:45 PM
Visiting the kids at CROH is like a major sensory overload. We can’t go and stay for extended periods of time because I’m pretty sure our heads would explode. The kids are wonderful, but they are all seeking attention and conversation. They have lots of energy (think more like Nasko than Grace or Faith!). They have questions and thoughts and things they want to show off. It’s so fun, but I leave feeling physically and emotionally drained.

This morning, Rick and Paula had their tailor come to the house to work with me on making a ring sling for Esther to use while she is caring for Deborah. Johnny was so quick with the manual pedal sewing machine , he also cranked out two intricate shirts for Louis and Nasko – all in under two hours. We’re contemplating having him come back to make some items that could be sold in the US for ministry profit.

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Since the sling was finished, I wanted to bring it to try it out with Esther. She loved it. She was so happy to have received it! The tail on it is too long, so we’ll need to hem it a bit shorter, but she was so excited to have something so nice. What she doesn’t know is that this sling will help Deborah focus on building the muscles in her neck for now. Win-win!

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Also, while at the orphanage today, I had the kids use fabric markers on a DIY wrap that I wanted to make more colorful! The kids are great artists and I enjoyed watching them draw.

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8:00 PM
Tonight was a late supper, but a good supper. I had told Paula of a mango chicken salad recipe I’d seen recently, but hadn’t made yet. Mangos are in season here, so she thought we should try it. Sadly, on the wonky internet here, I wasn’t able to access my Pinterest board to get the recipe! Never fear, Paula rarely lets food go to waste, so she came up with her own version of a mango chicken salad. It had chicken, mangos, chickpeas and cold rice in it. Then she made an olive oil and vinegar dressing using some mango juice as well. This cold salad was perfect following our exhausting evening. Rick suggested crunchy Ramen noodles on top next time, and we even agreed that the Ramen seasoning packet might enhance the flavor of the dressing. Be looking for Paula’s African-survival cookbook! Coming soon to stores near you…

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(Stay tuned for more!)

Africa Trip – March 28-29

[This post is the second entry of my journal and photos from our two-week trip to Africa. The first can be viewed here.]

March 28, 6:30 AM
Rick, who is technically Chance’s boss, you know, suggested leaving around 6:30 or 7:00 to go to the city for groceries and other supplies. So, the grown-up boys got up early!

11:15 AM
They headed to town and us ladies and young boys stayed behind. I tried my hardest to keep Nasko entertained and convince Louis that naps are not of Satan, but we were all very, very glad to see Chance and Rick when they arrived home two hours earlier than predicted. A new road had opened, and their drive time to the city had been shortened by one hour each way!

3:00 PM
After naps we decided to go visit the orphanage. Nasko and Louis both love looking out the window of the van, so they are excellent travelers here in Africa, thankfully!

3:30 PM
The kids at Children’sRedemption Orphanage Home (CROH) were so glad to see us. Chance had met most of the children, but it’s been two-and-a-half years since I’ve been here – the orphanage has more than doubled in size. Actually, something awesome is that it will be quadrupling in size before we go back home, but more on that when it happens.

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Despite not being formally introduced, the children all knew the boys and me. They were thrilled to meet Louis and Nasko. They completely overwhelmed Louis with their kisses, and they jumped right in with helping corral Nasko!

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Nasko spotted the neighbor’s chickens right away, so we all spent the next hour keeping Nasko in sight so we did not have to fear for the chickens’ safety. Nasko did not understand his borders until his wise Mama drew and line in the dirt and threatened his life if he crossed it again. He then attempted to persuade everyone else to cross the line and capture a chicken for him.

I loved spending a little time with all the beautiful children. Their English is impeccable and they are all so smart! My heart has been captured specifically by two of the youngest children though – David and Deborah.

Davey is three years old and has only been in the orphanage since last fall. He. is. ornery. Actually, he and Nasko were a great match. They neither one understand the concept of “mean,” so they just harassed each other relentlessly. Little ornery boys are honestly my favorite types of kiddos – I like a challenge! David let me hold him and snuggle him some. He does have some sweetness down deep.

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Deborah is 11 months old. She’s pretty tall for that age (who knows if it is completely accurate), but she has hardly any use of her limbs. If I were a developmental pediatrician and had to make a diagnosis today, I’d label her with Cerebral Palsy and Significant Cognitive Delays. She did react to me and all the crazy sounds I was making at her (can you believe I didn’t have my bag of therapy toys?!), but her reactions were minor and slow. She definitely let me know that she was enjoying my attention and that she did not enjoy being laid flat on her back while I was checking some of her reflexes.

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Please pray for Deborah as there are limited options for children here in her condition. Most children like her would already have been taken to the woods and been left for dead, as many people believe that kids with special needs carry a curse. Praise God she is being loved-on and cared for by the children and workers at CROH. Also pray for Esther, one of the older girls at the orphanage; she takes care of Deborah as if she’s Deborah’s mama. God is doing awesome things in Esther because of this relationship. We are thankful for her sacrificial love.

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(Sorie, who is sponsored by Chance’s mom and claims to be Chance’s brother, really wanted us to take his picture with Louis!)

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(Chance and Louis with Frank, CROH’s director)


5:00 PM
Louis could take no more (holy moly was he jealous when Mama held the other children. Whoa.) so we returned to Rick and Paula’s for a yummy spaghetti dinner and an early bedtime. I think the time change might finally be catching up with us.

March 29, 7:30 AM
Louis is hot. I mean, I’m hot too, but Louis is running-a-fever hot.

8:00 AM
Yup. Rick took Louis’ temperature and it was 101. Uh oh.

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(Nasko is very much African. The kids run around barefoot and naked or barely clothed!)

8:26 AM
Rick, Chance and Nasko left to meet up with ministry partner, Pastor Berry. The Miller girls are at a sleepover with friends, so that leaves Paula and I at the house with a hot, crabby baby.

9:34 AM
We are pretty sure Louis is suffering from dehydration. Nurse, nurse, nurse. Water, water, water.

10:40 AM
Paula asked me to pray with their housekeeper, Jane. Jane is unable to have children at this point, and she wants to be a mama so badly. In this culture, being barren is very shameful. Jane knows and believes that her Heavenly Father loves her regardless of her ability to have children, but her heart still yearns for babies. Please pray for Jane and her husband Paul. They are such faithful servants to the ministry of Lifegate. Ask the Great Physician to heal this woman and allow her to bear a child.

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11:12 AM
The big boys returned and Louis seems a little better after a short nap and lots of water. Paula made a delicious lunch of coconut-curry chicken over rice. Mangos are in season, so Jane got some ripe ones at the market and sliced those up for us as well.

3:50 PM
Nasko woke from a long nap (that’s what he gets for waking up before 6:00!) and we headed to Briggitte Village. If you remember from when we have come to Africa previously, Briggitte is the hub of much of Lifegate’s ministry currently.

First, a church was built there. Pastor Justice is the minister. Rick and Paula’s daughters, Grace and Faith, serve as the teachers for the children. This building is pretty well complete and is used regularly for services and meetings.

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Next to the church is a new, small structure from which ice is made and sold. Solar panels and freezers were purchased for the ministry, and ice is made and sold daily. Much of the money earned locally comes from fishing, so the fishermen can buy the ice to help keep their goods cold. Fish, at market, can be sold for a higher price when it is cooled, so this business is well-received here. The ice business is an attempt for Lifegate to become more self-sustainable. The profits from the business are used to help pay for the things needed for running the orphanage.

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(The silver building on the right houses the freezers.)

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(Ice is made in bags.)

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(Solar panels used to power the freezers.)

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(Chance and Rick discussing the best arrangement for the ice bags to get frozen results the fastest.)

Further up the mountain from the ice shed, past the winding side walk,  is the Bible Telling School. This building has the beginnings of two classrooms – one of which will be used to train pastors and others in the art of Bible Telling. This is the practice that Lifegate is using to help the people here in Sierra Leone learn the bible. 60% of the citizens here are illiterate, so it is not feasible to just hand out bibles and ask the people to read God’s redemptive story. Thus, the pastors are being trained to share the Bible’s message in story-form. These people love a good story, and much of their history has been preserved through oral tradition, so this concept is not foreign to them.

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(The building in the top-left of the photo is the Bible Telling School.)

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(Rick, in front of one of the classroom entrances.)

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(The classrooms still have some construction to be done. The ministry is seeking $1,500.00 to finish the building.)

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(The views from the school.)

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The other classroom in the building will be used to teach a trade such as tie-dying, sewing, or wood-working. Because of the Bible Telling School, pastors will be able to share Christ in remote villages while still having the skills to earn a living and provide monetary support to their families.

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Finally, our trip to Briggitte also included a tour of the two orphan homes being built. The first building is nearing completion; we might be able to see the boys move into their new home during our time here! The buildings look great, but have been a huge source of stress to Rick over the past several months. We are praying for a quick completion so the children can be moved and the construction process can be over.

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(The first home, which is almost complete. Hopefully the boys will be moved into it this Friday!)

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(Inside the home. This is the “great room” where they will play and eat.)IMG_1950

(A bedroom which will be filled with bunk beds.)

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(A caregiver’s bedroom.)

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(The second home – for the girls!)

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5:28 PM
Beep, beep! While driving us back to his house, Rick saw the van that was recently given to the orphanage.  It is used to transport the children regularly, but it is also another example of sustainability; when it is not used with the children, the van is operated as a taxi. The profits are used in caring for the children.

(Pretend a well-taken photo of a van is here. Some things just didn’t get done!)

5:40 PM
Louis is feverish and dehydrated again. This is going to be less-than-fun, I can tell. I’ve not been drinking enough water either. Blah.

7:15 PM
Before coming, Nasko and I purchased nail polish to use for painting the orphanage girls’ finger nails. Nasko picked out some very LOUD, neon colors, but they should be fun! Tonight I used the polish to paint Grace and Faith’s nails. Nasko wanted his done as well, so with permission from his father, I painted them! That should look good for church tomorrow…

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(You can see the nail polish color in this very blurry photo!)

[Stay tuned!]

Africa Trip – March 24-27

[My family and I just returned from a two-week trip to Sierra Leone, Africa for Chance's job with Lifegate Ministries. This is the first of my journal entries from the trip.]

Monday, March 24, 11:14 AM CST
We haven’t actually left yet. We are still packing. And repacking. And packing again.

Even Nasko is packing. He asked if he could pack a bag, so I let him. So far, it contains three pairs of fake eyeglasses, two glasses cases, and one set of plastic keys that don’t unlock anything. I feel like he gets it. What else might one need when traveling to a third-world-country?!

12:18 PM
While rocking Louis to sleep for nap, I thought I’d research some of the amenities offered at the Brussels airport. I think I remember seeing a kids playplace there once. I pulled up their website and there’s a news bulletin informing travelers to be prepared for possible delays… The president of the United States of America will be visiting Brussels on March 25-26. We cannot seem to get away from that man…

Tuesday, March 25, 2:25 PM

(Travel Day!)

 

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At the Peoria airport, Nasko watched out the window as they boarded one plane. The pilot could see us, and he began waving at Nasko. Well, that was better than meeting a celebrity, in Nasko’s mind. He started waving back like a mad man. He even ran to different windows to be sure the pilot could still see him.

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This has done nothing to help the fact that Nasko believes he is going to be given the opportunity to “drive” our airplanes.

A little while later, Nasko befriended another man in a uniform. He held this employee’s hand and asked the man to take him to our plane’s cockpit.

Too bad this man was in charge of moving the luggage, not flying the plane.

[We flew from Peoria to Chicago, then Chicago to Brussels.]


Tuesday, March 25 (still? maybe? And I sure as heck don’t know what time it is.)

The key to relaxation for Chance and I? Apparently a seven hour flight. I got to watch TV. TeeVee y’all. I never get to watch TV at home. And guess what?! The show had nothing to do with school buses or fire trucks. It was marvelous.

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(I watched every episode of The Big Bang Theory that I possibly could!)

Louis fell asleep as we were taking off, and Nasko was content to look out the window or sit in his seat and play. Actually, the area we sat in wasn’t too full. Nasko sat four seats away and was well-behaved. Who knew flying could be so relaxing?! I mean, I got to sit and watch TV!

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[We flew from Brussels to Freetown, Sierra Leone, Africa]


March 26, 6:02 PM (GMT)
We survived! We made it.

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I did not strangle either of our children (or Chance for that matter). We travelled for around 26 hours and it is officially over.

The best part about arriving (aside from seeing Rick’s gorgeous white face, of course)? It was hot and humid when we landed.

Hot and humid. I was afraid my body has forgotten how to perspire (it’s been a miserable winter) but never fear, the warmth was amazing. I’m sure I’ll be over that in about 15 minutes though.

6:10 PM
Yup. Over it. The line for customs is long and there is no breeze in the airport. Or air conditioning. Haaawwwt…

6:30 PM
All of our luggage arrived! Praise God! We actually packed most of our clothing in a carry on and then divided the rest of our luggage among two other suitcases. We were preparing for the worst. For example, if one suitcase was lost, I would have been out only two bags of gluten free noodles, instead of four. It’s all about the important stuff arriving…

6:45 PM
Now a three-hour ride in a truck.

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8:20 PM
I couldn’t stand it any longer. I made Rick’s driver pull over so I could pee on the side of the road. The last time I came to Africa, I avoided having to squat and pee outside the entire time. This trip isn’t off to a good start in that respect…

9:40 (May as well have been 2 AM)
We got to Rick and Paula’s house, ate some supper, and collapsed into bed. We used melatonin for the boys on the way here and again tonight. That stuff is my new favorite friend while traveling through time zones. (I’m taking notes for when we all go to pick up E this summer!)

Thursday, March 27, 7:02 AM
Rick and Paula mentioned that most groups who come to visit will usually sleep in until 10:00 on the first day. Y’all. Rick and Paula will soon learn that my family is not “most groups.” We were all up by 7:00.

10:00 AM
We’ve all had enough. We are all headed back to bed.

2:45 PM
Rick and Paula wanted to take us to a new beach they recently discovered. It was awesome! For sure Africa-awesome and probably even all-around-no-matter-where-you-live-awesome. The beach was spotless with light colored sand, big waves, beach chairs and a hammock.

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In order to use this private beach, one must either pay a fee or eat at the restaurant. No cooking and delicious, fresh seafood? Alright. You twisted my arm. Chance and I had crab and shrimp (it was the same price as the chicken club sandwich!). Yum!

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After swimming and playing on the beach, Rick mentioned that there was a shower with hot water there. His home only has cold water, so this was important information. We all took our first showers since our travels began.

 

(Stay tuned for more of my journaling and photos!)

World, we’re at it again! [Big Announcement]

Homestudy, dossier, I-800a, immigration, fingerprinting, and travel expenses.

Most people go their entire lives not even knowing or understanding those words to the fullest.

Reactive Attachment Disorder, Institutionalized Autism, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, physical limitations, immune disorders, and over-all developmental delays.

Again, words that many families never muddle through, see in medical reports, google, or pray over.

Blessing, wanted, anticipated, prayed over, and long-awaited.  

These are the words we dwell on here, in our home.

And those are the words we’ll use to describe our third son.

That’s right folks… The Newinghams are at it again!

(Don’t look at my belly… I’m skinnier than I was in high school, and I’m enjoying that for the time being!)

We’re adopting again!

(It’s ok… you can call us crazy… We call ourselves crazy…)

We’ve been matched with a little guy for a while, but we were waiting until one of the major steps of the adoption process had been accomplished before we shared this news with the world.  And, it is finished, so here it is… “World, we’re at it again!”

This little man is from a country that is VERY strict about the information that is shared publicly, so I can’t say too much, but here’s what I can say -

1. It’s a boy!

We’re adopting another boy.  When I originally showed the Reverend the file, Chance said, “He looks perfect… now only if he were a girl…”  He’s since gotten over that.  I’m just happy that I’ll maintain my title of “Queen of the Castle.”

2. He’s 2 and a half.

His birthday is May 19th, so his third birthday should be the last birthday he spends in an orphanage.

3. His name is E_______.

We aren’t allowed to share his name on social media or blog sites until his adoption is finalized.  He has a very European name that is close in pronunciation and spelling to an English name, so we are tweaking it ever-so-slightly and using that as his new name.  His name will begin with E, so just as we referred to Nasko as “N” for months, we’ll refer to E in the same way.  (Not to say I won’t mess up and type his name once in a while… if you catch it sometime, please message me so I can make the correction.)  If you are privy to his full name (in other words, if you live in a sixty-mile radius of my mother or Chance’s mother) please don’t use it on public sites.

4. He’s from an Eastern-Euorpean country.

E is not from the same country that Nasko was adopted from (that would be too easy), but he’s from the same region.  That region is also the area of the world that is being affected by the protests in the Ukraine and the threats of Russia.  Please be in prayer for our child’s country and the region in which he lives.

5. He has special needs.

As we told some of our church camp students last year – don’t we all?!

E’s special needs are more physical in nature though.  He PROBABLY has hip dysplasia (which means I’ll PROBABLY have to learn to spell it).  His hip socket and leg bone seem to not be in the proper area (in relation to one another), which is also causing his spine to curve and one of his legs to be shorter. This can be mostly corrected with surgery and physical therapy.  And casts.  Heavy, obtrusive casts.  (I’m already excited about that part, if you can’t tell.)

You may remember that the Reverend and I used to keep a little man named Joel rather frequently on the weekends.  Joel had hip dysplasia.  Because of our involvement in his life, we know quite a bit about which doctors to use (and not use) and what treatments will look like.

E also has astigmatism (another one to learn to spell) so he wears glasses all the time.  Nasko may or may not be most excited about this fact… I’m just excited because they are ridiculously adorable.

Another special need is that E has a speech delay.  When I read that in his file, I said to myself, “Of course he does.  Bring it on.”  Don’t worry.  We’ll have him talking in no time… Although, he’ll have to wait his turn because of his two “non-verbal” brothers.  (Louis, nine months, imitated the word “Thanks” this morning, and Nasko’s current favorite phrase is “Absolutely, yes.”  Non-verbal, my foot.)

E has a few other nitty-gritty medical details, but those are the main issues we’ll be dealing with on a daily basis.

6. We HOPE to have him home this summer.

When we started the adoption process again (from scratch because all of Nasko’s paperwork was expired or too old.  Gag me…) Chance and I reminded each other that adoption timelines are like construction contractor bids – you should always double their estimates.

We’ve already seen this to be true as one person mentioned that we’d have him home by his third birthday; I don’t see that happening at this point, but I’m shooting for July or August.  There’s always some snafu in paperwork or a random European holiday causing delays.

We have a completed and approved home study, however, so we’re trucking right along. Next we’ll send off some paperwork to immigration, get fingerprints done, and send our dossier to Eastern Europe for translation.  I’ll write more about the process in a different post though.

For now, we just wanted to let the world know “We’re at it again!” and pave the way for our mothers to be able to show pictures to EVERYONE they meet.

Please join us in praying for little E as he becomes a member of our family.