I have a dry butter bean in my wallet. It’s a seed. It was given to me a couple of years ago as a reminder of a sermon on God-given potential. Have you ever taken the time to really think about the power of a seed? As long as the seed sits in a dry dark place with no nutrients, its potential will remain dormant. But….when you put the seed in fertile ground and water it and expose it to sunlight, it will burst out of its shell. If you continue to nurture the seed it will grow into a plant. If you nurture the plant, it will produce more seeds. If you nurture those seeds, they will produce more seeds. My dry butter bean is a tangible reminder of what God can do with the potential inside of me or anyone I encounter, when the proper nourishment is given.
For the past several months there has been a whole heap of drama happening in the Serbian adoption community. For this reason, I’ve refrained from blogging about my upcoming trip to Serbia. Since it is now just around the corner, and since the needs surrounding the trip far outweigh my desire to avoid drama, I’m ready to write about it.
Matthew 9:37-38 CEV
37He said to his disciples, “A large crop is in the fields, but there are only a few workers. 38Ask the Lord in charge of the harvest to send out workers to bring it in.”
At the end of this month I will be going back to Serbia on a missions trip. I’M SO STINKIN’ EXCITED!!! I will be leading a team of people to a school in Republika Srpska that has a special education program and we will be screening approximately 300 children who are waiting for an opportunity to go to school. We are still looking for a SPEECH PATHOLOGIST and an AUDIOLOGIST to travel with us and perform screenings. If you are interested, please send me a comment or go to http://www.airlineamb.org/ (you may have to cut and paste the link). Go to their upcoming trips page and register for the Serbia trip. Please let me know if funds are an issue.
1 Corinthians 15:37-38 CEB
37 What you put in the ground doesn’t have the shape that it will have, but it’s a bare grain of wheat or some other seed. 38 God gives it the sort of shape that he chooses, and he gives each of the seeds its own shape.
Special needs children in the Serbian region have historically not been educated. They have not been valued. They have been marginalized. The cultural attitudes towards special needs children has led to the majority of those children spending their lives in institutions. Parents have had choose between abandoning their children or raising them with shame and little support.
The attitudes towards children with disabilities in former communist countries is not all that different from the attitudes in this country half a century ago. Change is possible! I have the privilege of working with a woman who has Yugoslavian roots and who served in and retired from the United States military. This woman has spent the past eleven years working to improve the lives of orphans and special needs children in Serbia. She was given a building and asked to open a school a few years ago. She agreed to do so under one condition. She wanted to use part of the building for special education. I can imagine that many people laughed at this woman who thought parents would risk scoffing and embarrassment to bring their children to school. I imagine there were many conversations in the local community about how unlikely it was that this woman’s program would succeed.
But you know what? Parents came. They came from miles and miles away. The took their little seeds out of the dry dark places they had been living and they exposed them to the nourishment it would take for them to reach their God-given potential. You know why? Because parents want to see their children succeed. I believe with all that I am that every child has a purpose in life and a potential that must be unlocked. Every child is a seed. Without an education, that potential will just live dormant.
The day I leave is exactly one year since the day we brought Sofija home. I left there just begging God to get us out of there and praying that I never had to go back. I’m sure God laughed as He sat there with the knowledge that He was only giving me 365 days to prepare my heart for the return. In those days I’ve watched my daughter transform. She would not have been able to attend school at all in Serbia. She has been in school for less than eight months and she is now learning to read. When we asked the foster family she was living with why they had not adopted her, they responded with, “Because there is no future for her here.” Don’t get me wrong. She is ours and we know without a doubt that we were supposed to adopt her. But…it is still tragic to me that a family who loved her was willing to let her go because they could not see any hope for her potential being unlocked in her own country.
My friend Leah adopted a ten-year old boy with down syndrome in December. His name is Axel. Axel’s birth parents loved him, but they saw no hope for him in Serbia so they relinquished their rights and allowed him to be placed on the international adoption registry. At age ten, Axel had never received any form of education. He has hearing loss and he was never given any way to communicate. In four months, he has learned American sign language, his letters, colors, numbers and all the things a toddler is tought in America. He is now sight-reading and this week, he started school. Axel’s potential is being unlocked. His purpose on this planet is just waiting to be revealed. And….even though Axel was undoubtedly meant to be a part of Leah’s family, I have to believe that the work we are doing will ensure that birth families like Axel’s will soon be free of the formidable choice that his had to make.
31 Jesus said, It (God’s kingdom) is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. 32 Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”
Let’s go grow some trees!
If you are not a speech pathologist or audiologist and you would still like to step up in support of this trip, there are many needs. The missions program is through Airline Ambassadors International. We are going to support the work being done in Serbia and Republika Srpska by Cherish Our Children International (COCI). Go here to read about COCI’s transportation program http://www.cherishourchildren.org/serbia.html (once again, you may need to cut and paste the link). They are in desperate need of a handicapped accessible vehicle. You can make a donation towards the vehicle through the COCI website or through the AAI website. Just make sure you note where the funds are to be allocated. If you live around me and you would like to donate school supplies or educational tools for special needs children, I would be happy to carry them with me when we travel.