Monday, January 28, 2013

At the end of the river is an ocean...

There is a lot more about this trip that I could share with you all (being pulled over by police, Maida contracting malaria...etc) and I will some day, but I think for now I shall end our trip with this post. This is actually all written by my mom and is the last post on her blog, so I'm actually just borrowing her words :) (all the credit goes to her). She is such a talented writer and really summed everything up well with only a few words and a very much needed pile of photos! So, here you go!

 "Since we were in country for two weeks we had lots of opportunity to spend time at the orphanage Maida was from. My daughter Gabby was allowed to tag along with Mama J almost every time she went to tend to the children and staff at the orphanage. It was an amazing opportunity for a young girl of seventeen who has the hopes of one day ministering in Northern China to the North Korean orphans who are stateless children there.

She loved the kids, and they loved her. She studied and learned a great deal of Lingala before we left and picked up a great deal more while in country. Her time with Mama J was very special to her and she hopes to do it again.
Those days were priceless for the both of us. Stronger than just mother daughter bonds we share a deep love for our Creator and the orphans he has intrusted us believers to care for. As a little girl I had dreams of traveling to Africa to spend time loving on the least of these. I had the same dream for China. My daughter Gabriella was able to walk along with me in my journey to Africa. A dream realized. And I know one day, I will walk alongside her as she realizes her own dream that God gave her of loving the least of these in Northern China. That my friends is a sweetness no hallmark card could ever convey.

Gods plans are always bigger than our own, and He begins the process long before we ever know it or ever have any say or way to foil it:) Thank goodness for that!"



After almost not being able to leave Congo, flights being canceled, and missing another flight we finally made it home! Maida Grace is no longer an orphan, but a beautiful little girl (with quite the character!) with a forever family!
We went from went from this (I do have one brother, he is just older, married now, with his own family ^^)


Trying to take a good photo of six giggling girls is quite the task!
We have gotten to know her so well now and so much has changed in these few short months (feels like a lifetime) since she has been home and I can't wait to share them with you!





Monday, January 21, 2013

Day Two - Meeting Ida

I am just going to dive right in and start from where I left off in my last post :)

As we pulled up to the orphanage gate we were greeted by a man who acted as a guard for the orphanage. He let us in and led us into a pretty good sized open space. There was dirt everywhere (the ground was pure dirt, not much grass to be found in Kinshasa) and being outside for any length of time in Congo (especially if you're there in the summer like my mom and I were) means you were sure to be sweating within seconds.

We followed Julia in and were greeted by several of the workers/nannies there. They told us that all the children were asleep so we quietly made our way into the orphanage building and began going through rooms looking for our Maida. As we were looking into two of the three rooms there my mom and I were both tickled again to find that we recognized many of the children and could call them by name.

This was the boy' room. There were several bunk beds and each had at least four boys to a mattress.

Finally we came to the last room! My mom and I went in, looking for her (although I knew that I was only there that moment to be the camera girl ^^). The kids began to wake up and try to figure out what was going on as we walked in.
This was one of the first faces we saw as we walked in, greeting us with a Bonjour
  and a beautiful  smile :)

Someone told us that Maida was still sleeping on a bed in the corner. My mom quickly walked over to her and I followed close behind.

This is the first glimpse we saw of her!

Everyone had already woken up, but Maida just kept on sleeping. She was wet and sweaty but my mom picked her up anyway. She woke up VERY groggy (she could barely keep her eyes open!) You could tell she was wondering why a strange Mondeli (white person in Lingala) was holding her, but at that point she wasn't awake enough to care. 

She did eventually really wake up and somewhat understood what was going on. All of the workers kept telling her she was going to leave with her new Mama and sister and go live in America with a new family. Maida was very quite, reserved (understandably so) and didn't speak one word.  

The nannies cleaned Maida up and put a pretty dress on her

In the back of the orphanage trying to get some alone time with her before the other kids came and piled themselves on top of us :)

I wish I could say that Maida and I were like glue from the first moment, but, sadly, that would be a lie. She had some big territorial and control issues about me. Don't worry though, we had it all sorted before we got home (and who's name does she now constantly call when she wants to play? lol) 

We left the orphanage and stopped quickly by a hospital to go check on (with Julia and Papa J) a baby who was sick with malaria (she is fine now and is home with her own family!) Afterward we went back to our hotel. Julia and I went to grab some bottled water at a market nearby to leave mom and Maida alone for a bit to have a little bonding time. When I got back my mom said that Maida was starting to come out of her shell and smile and laugh a bit (of course that all ended when I entered the room ^^)

To celebrate getting visas and all of our children on the same day Papa J took us to an Italian restaurant (man was the food in Congo good! Who knew, right?). We heard Maida talk for the first time that night! A girl Maida had been particularly close with in the orphanage (she is a couple years older than Maida and you could tell that she took care of her while they were there) had been picked up by her parents a couple days before, but they happened to still be there. When they saw each other in the lobby of the hotel right before we left to eat they just smiled at each other. The little girl swiftly walked over to Maida, took her out of my moms arms, set her on the floor, grabbed some toys, and started to talk to her about who knows what. It was the funniest thing and had us all laughing. Maida joined in with all the kids (some other kids from the orphanage was there too) and they played and talked the night away. It was so cute!

After we got back it was time to call home, and then bed. Maida really enjoyed hearing the voices of her family on the phone!

 This was the picture we took of her first night with us. A very good ending to a very good day :)

Just as a heads up to you all (I'm sure you realized this already) my little sisters name is Maida Grace, but we call her Ida (pronounce Ee-dah)

Thursday, January 10, 2013


Unfortunately blog spot is not working for me :(  I cannot upload any photos as of right now, but hopefully in a couple days it will be fine. I will try to get a new post up soon!

Until then,

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Congo - Getting ready/part of day 1


It's know been quite some time since I last posted and some updates on my trip are WAY overdue (not to mention Christmas or New Years)! Quite a lot has happened since I last spoke with you all! For now I will share with you all about our twelve day journey in Congo and finally getting to wrap my arms around my new baby sister!

As I told you all before we were scheduled to leave LAX and fly into DC, then on to Brussels, and finally Kinshasa on the 30th of October but due to hurricane Sandy we had to leave the following day. We got up early on the 31st, said goodbye to our family and headed to the airport to catch our 8:45 flight.

This was the morning we left. I think my mom and I went to bed at 2:30am the night before and woke up at 4:30am. We packed and repacked, added and took was kind of crazy :)

A not so nice looking picture of me before we left the house

A picture of my mom and I at the Dulles Airport

While in DC (waiting out our three hour layover) we met up with two other parents who were going to pick up their children from the same orphanage Ida was in and our in country coordinator, Julia, who was traveling with us also.
Finally after what seemed to be forever we all boarded the plane to Brussels, and then on to Kinshasa!
We landed in the Kinshasa airport at about 9:20pm or so and grabbed all of our luggage and squeezed into a sort of "taxi" and then headed for our hotel. There are no words to describe what I felt as we drove down the streets of Congo. A mixture of sadness and grief at the poverty and sadness of the state that these people are living in, but then there was also awe and wonder. Watching people everywhere burning trash on the sides of the roads (they do not have any other way to take care of their trash there) seeing all the people walking about in the streets in the midst of all the cars, taking in all the smells, all the sights, it was almost mesmerizing. How could a place like this exist in the world we live in? As an American I think we are very cut off and secluded from this part of the world. We have an idea about how life is and how life ought to be, we want or need this or that to give us satisfaction in life. We have no idea what life is like in places like Congo or North Korea. We have no idea that there is a good portion of our world that is very different from our own, who don't have the same luxuries as we do, who don't even have the basic things we call "necessities" but some of these "necessities" we have these people have never even had the privilege to hold in their own hand, let alone own.
This was the front of our hotel. We took this picture the next day. It used to be a catholic convent that was converted into a place for foreigners to stay (usually NGO's, volunteers, or adopting families)

As all of these feelings were whirling around in my head we were unloading the car trying to get every ones things sorted out and given to the right people (we were staying in the same hotel as the other two parents and Julia) and lugging up all of our luggage to our rooms. My mom and I packed one suitcase for ourselves for food, clothes, and medicines...etc and the rest of our luggage was donations to orphanages. Each one of those donation tubs weighed fifty pounds..... unfortunately we were on the top floor (they called it the third floor, but it was up four flights of stairs... ^_^). Finally everything was situated and my mom and I went into our room and shut the door. We began to sort through our own things, finding places for things to go. We didn't talk much at first, each of us just needing those moments of silence, but after everything was done we both sat down and began talking. We talked about the things we had seen, we talked about how we think the two weeks will go while we were there, our perspectives about the country, and, of course, getting to meet Ida the next day! After Face Timing with our family back home (the hotel did have wifi, but it was very sporadic as to when we would have a connection because power never stayed on for very long, so we were lucky it worked for us that night) it was about one or two am, we both got into bed and fell asleep instantly, happily anticipating the next day. (sorry, we were to busy to take photo's of this night)

We got up the next morning and were told by Julia that the two parents we flew in with were going to have their children brought to the hotel so they can meet them. My mom said she wanted to meet Ida at the orphanage and to be there and experience and see where she lived (they actually had just moved the kids to a new, better facility the day before we came) so we were told we would head out to the orphanage after the parents' kids were brought to them by our guide/translator/protector/friend PJ. We were so excited to see the other parents meet their kids as they were actually two kids we had seen a lot of in videos and photos we had gotten  and they are also good friends of Ida's, so we were tickled we recognized them and got to see them meet their new families! Finally we getting ready to head out but Julia came and told us that the US Embassy in Kinshasa said that Ida's visa was ready and that we could come and get it. So we decided to postpone our trip an hour or so to get her visa (which she needs to leave the country). 
Finally, finally, we got into PJ's car and headed down to the orphanage. It took us about 45 minutes to get there. The roads were all so bumpy you ended up smacking your face against the windows several times before we made it to our destination and not to mention that there are practically no rules for drivers in Congo, so cars are going every which way, almost colliding, then swerving at the last moment. But we did eventually make it to the orphanage.
We drove up into a narrow road way where the buildings were so close together the car could barely get through.   
This was our first view of the orphanage. The gate was just a few steps away from here.


More tomorrow!