Frank's Freedom

Meet Frank. He’s 13 years old, and is curious, busy, fun happy and bright. He has a mental delay, but that doesn’t stop him from being friendly, engaging and kind. He’s also an orphan in Eastern Europe. This means he is in an institution. If he is not adopted by age 16, he will be thrown out on the street with nothing but the clothes on his back and his “disabled orphan” status. Let me tell you more about Frank.

He’s little, about the size of a 7 year old. And he’s smart. He is in a group with teenage boys ages 16-24. He does puzzles and he does his chores diligently. He is very kind to the younger children. Frank is friendly and engaging. He likes being with the boys, but is happy being alone too. He plays appropriately with toys and is “all boy”. He could very easily function in a family. Frank is curious, smart, fun and sweet. He likes to play in the dirt and jump on the trampoline. Frank is independent, a good eater, is happy and content. Frank is physically healthy. He walks, runs, feeds himself, speaks, does puzzles and interacts with others well. He's a sweet boy who seems rather unaffected by his surroundings. He has no future where he's at, and without help, he's never getting out. Institutions are a one way ticket to nowhere. And this little boy deserves a future. This little boy will be a blessing to any family.

The Baker family has committed to adopt Frank and another boy, Emmitt. But international adoption is pretty expensive. The adoption would cost about $30,000. Reece’s Rainbow is an organization that helps with this cost. They set up grants for children in 25 countries around the world, and any money that is donated to these funds is given to the families to help with adoption fees. With Reece's Rainbow's help, the Baker family only needs about $10,000 to bring home both boys!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

When You Wish Upon A Star

You know what I really miss about Mexico, that I never expected I would? The stars.
When I was little, stargazing kind of freaked me out. I don't know why. Mostly when I saw a satellite, because it was freaky to me to think that it was all the way out in space, and I could seen it moving.
But when I was on the mission trip in Mexico, I loved how many stars you could see. Here, you can't see as many stars. That's because almost wherever you go, there's a town with lights nearby. Big cities, even from far away, light up the sky, and you can't see as many stars.
But in Mexico, you could see so many. Because there wasn't huge cities full of lights everywhere. It was amazing to walk to our tent every night, and see all the stars.
It's amazing to realize that the God who made every one of those stars, made us. He knows every star in the sky and every hair on your head.

And a little boy in Eastern Europe and a group of people here who love him could all be looking at that same star.

Did he pray every night for a family? I know I did. I prayed for a family for him. Because I know how at risk he is. I know that if he wasn't saved, he would literally lose his mind. He'd turn into a mindless, rocking body. I knew he would never get out without a family. He had no hope without a family. So I prayed every night that a family would take the leap of faith and rescue him.
In September 2011, Laura and Jeremy traveled to Eastern Europe to rescue their son, Seth. They spent seven weeks in country, meeting Seth and adopting him. While they were there, they met a little boy. Laura thought he was 7, because he was so small. When they got home, she went to work getting him listed on Reece's Rainbow.
About February 2012, he was listed on Reece's Rainbow. He had a not- so- good photo that had been taken about six months earlier. Laura gave Reece's Rainbow a picture they had gotten of him, and information about him. But no one really knew about him.
He'd been met by someone six months earlier, but that was all the information about him. He wasn't aging out, he didn't have a life- threatening disease. He was just a dirty, lonely boy. He didn't have a heart- wrenching story, like some of the other kids. He was overlooked. I admit, I'd glanced through the listings and seen him before, but he didn't really catch my attention. 
That was around the time of the "Orphanage 39" "craziness". A mom was in country, at 'Orphanage 39'. She was meeting her daughter. While they were there, they started getting to know the kids at that orphanage. It was a really good orphanage, and a lot of the kids had been listed. She began begging for families for them, sharing updates and stories about them. The Reece's Rainbow community began sharing and yelling for these kids. Every child she yelled for (except for three, who sadly decided not to be adopted) is now home. I joined in, yelling for those kids. I was a Guardian Angel for Tyler, then Alexis, then Patti, then Carter. So, I hadn't really noticed Frank. Then in August, I was looking for another child to sponsor. A boy was listed on Reece's Rainbow, and I immediately jumped to become his Guardian Angel. He was an older boy, already 12 years old, named Zack, with Spina Bifida. A family had met him, and he had been the best friend of their daughter. Pretty soon, Zack found a family. 
So I was looking on Reece's Rainbow, to try and see who I would sponsor next. I made a list of all the children (at that time) who had been met by adopting families, and therefore had information and pictures available. I started praying, and worked on narrowing the list down. I knew I wanted older kids, so I narrowed it down to kids 6 and up. Then I narrowed it to kids with special needs other then Down Syndrome, since DS is Reece's Rainbow's main focus. Then to boys, because they are less likely to be chosen. Along the way, I picked up a little blind boy who stole my heart, even though no one had met him and he was only three. Finally, I got it down to 4 older boys. All in Eastern Europe, all with special needs other then Down Syndrome.
Theo, who has Cerebral Palsy. Multiple people had met him, and shared pictures. He was such a calm and gentle boy.
Brody and Auggie. Brothers, who had been separated. They were believed to have a genetic disorder, that lead to self- harming and autistic behaviors. Two missionary had spent time with them, and had a lot of pictures and information.
I picked up Ulysses, because I had a soft spot for blind little boys.
Then there was Frank. I still don't know exactly why I was led to pick him, but I did. For August and September, I began to share about each of the boys, collecting all the information and sharing it.
Then in October, Frank was up for voting for Angel Tree. I kept posting on the Reece's Rainbow group page, asking people to vote for Frank. Laura contacted me, to let me know she was the one who had met Frank and got him listed. When he made it onto Angel Tree, I knew he was the one I was supposed to sponsor. I became his Angel Tree Warrior.
Before Angel Tree, he only had about $200 in his adoption grant. He still wasn't very "well- known". I'll admit it, I was terrified he wouldn't get to his goal. I was terrified to fail him. I committed to be his warrior, and my brain immediately went "What did you just do?" 
But I knew God would be faithful, and he would make it to $1,000. 
Frank was starting to touch other lives too. A fellow (popular)advocate, Julia, shared about him on her blog. I truly believe it was because of her sharing that he made it to his goal.
After Angel Tree, his grant stalled for a while.
Then a team of fellow advocates put together a huge fundraiser, to raise money for kids on RR, and raise awareness. It was called Forty To Forever. For each of the 40 days of Lent, the goal was to raise $400 for the featured waiting child or adopting family. I immediately asked if Frank could be part. And he was!
Forty To Forever raised about $500 for him. It also got his face out there. 
His army of supporters was slowly growing. 
Then Julia had her big fundraiser, Mulligan Stew. It was a huge success, and Frank was a part of it! He had stolen her heart, and he was one of the children she wanted to raise awareness and fundraise for him. Mulligan Stew raised over $1,000 for his adoption grant. He also received a special donation of about $2,000.
Now he had over $4,000 in his adoption grant. I was slowly working to get him to $5,000 (the next level of Moving Mountains, Sizable Grants). That was about a month ago. I was blogging and writing and sharing about him, begging for a family for him. I arranged a virtual "birthday party" for him, as a fundraiser for him.
Then Reece's Rainbow made the bittersweet decision to regift the adoption grants raised for the children in Russia, since Russia has banned American adoptions. Frank was gifted one of these grants. I had been hoping he would get one, thinking he would get $1,000, tops.
He was gifted an adoption grant of $7,649. I hadn't been on to see, but an advocator commented on a post of mine, saying it looked like his grant had taken a huge leap. Pessimist that I am at times, I thought maybe it was just her now seeing the Mulligan Stew money fundraised. But I went and checked.
His adoption grant was now almost $12,000. I almost cried when I saw that. I had just been talking to Laura, that with almost $5,000, he was only $1,000 away from being 1/3 funded. Then he got to almost $12,000. He was only $13 away, so I asked if someone would donate $13, to get him to $12,000, in honor of him turning 13 this month. Laura did. So he had $12,000.37.
On Tuesday night, I was getting ready for Frank's birthday "party". Trying to get more kids invited, seeing who was invited. 

Then I got a message. 

Only two words. 

"Watch MFFM". 

I think Frank heard my scream on the other side of the world.
The day before his 13th birthday (month), he found a family.

He found a family.

Now, let me backtrack a little. There was another boy on Reece's Rainbow, an older boy. Almost 15 years old, trapped in a Level 4 (very poor) institution. Mentally- sound, trapped in a body that does not work. If you have been around Reece's Rainbow a while, you have probably heard of him. His name is Emmitt. He'd been listed for a long time. Multiple years, at least. He had one picture, and a little write- up from a family who had met him a few years back. No one knew anything else about him, but he'd been listed so long, everyone knew about him. He was about to turn 15. His advocate, Pam, is the one who came up with the birthday party idea. Of course, she got a lot more kids invited, since she started 6 months in advance. He and Frank were both on Angel Tree.

There have been two "parties" for kids on Reece's Rainbow. Pam's for Emmitt, and mine for Frank.

There was a mom who got two Angel Tree Ornaments. Frank's and Emmitt's. She had no idea what was to come.

March 2013, Emmitt found a family. We rejoiced that he found a family. We celebrated he would be rescued.

2013 has been the year for older boys.
There's 50 older boys (born 2007 or earlier) on MFFM. Frank is #50. I knew it was coming. There were so many older boys ending up on MFFM, I knew Frank was coming.

Emmitt and Frank. Two older other angel boys. Both over 10. Both in Level 4 institutions. Both too smart to be where they are. Both on Angel Tree. Both in Eastern Europe.


They're going to be brothers.

They prayed for a family. They looked at that star, and prayed God would give them a family, and rescue them.

They're coming home.

God always has a plan. 

"'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

Monday, May 6, 2013

Nobody's Child

Written by Katie

I wish I could command inspiration to strike me when I needed it, but I can't.

I wish I could conjure up the most eloquent blog post ever right now, but I can't.

I'm actually pretty preoccupied by my health tonight, and I didn't really want to write a blog post.

But then it occurred to me.

While I sit in my warm bed in my warm house, not wanting to type on my laptop...

...a little boy sits, and maybe he's cold, having nothing that's really his own... not wanting to be an orphan.

And I owe it to him to write this post.

Around a year and a half ago, for some reason and without ever intending to, I fell in love with this little boy.

Back then, he looked more like this:

I don't know what it was about him.  Maybe his picture.  Maybe his story.  But I think, mostly God.

That little boy is Brett, and he lives in a mental institution in Eastern Europe, because he was abandoned at birth because he has down syndrome.

And when I say abandoned at birth... I mean it quite literally.  Most of the children in orphanages or institutions were born in hospitals or at home and surrendered from there directly to the orphanage.  Not Brett.  Immediately after giving birth, Brett's birth mother left him to lie in a field.  He became hypothermic and unresponsive, went into shock.  When a stranger came upon him and took him to the hospital, he was covered in bug bites.

Brett very nearly didn't make it through his first day on this earth.  If that stranger hadn't come upon him, for whatever reason, by whatever twist of fate... he would have died, a nameless baby who belonged to no one.

But that didn't happen.  He was saved.  Saved... and then taken to a hospital... and then to an orphanage.  At three years old, he was transferred from the orphanage to an adult mental institution.  Adult.  Three years old.

Saved... but for what kind of life?

This is the question I ask myself every day - and it can only have one answer.  Brett's story isn't over - not yet.  He was saved that day, on August 23, 2001 (yes, I have his birthday memorized), for something greater than the life he's living now... and all he needs to get there... is you.


Yes, YOU.

If you've been waiting for a sign, this is it.  Brett needs YOU.

He's eleven years old now, still waiting in that mental institution, legally free and available for adoption and listed with Reece's Ranbow with a grant over $2,500 to aid with his adoption.  I can personally promise to help raise the rest of the money required for the family who adopts him.  His country is really a great one to adopt from - easy travel, inexpensive, very stable program, Hague country, I've heard nothing but good about the facilitators and agency staff.

What are you waiting for?

Recently, one of the adoption facilitators traveled to Brett's institution.  The report came back that he has some nonverbal communication skills, is extremely flexible (typical for kids with DS), and would likely do very well in a family and is not aggressive (something that has been seen in many institutionalized children).  Brett also has alopecia, which is why he lost his hair.  No big deal.  I shaved mine for him on New Year's this year!  There are all sorts of fun things to do with a bald head.  And this little detail of his appearance... should absolutely NOT be what stops him from having the family he deserves.  From my own limited experience with institutionalized children, I suspect he would be a wonderful and loving son.  Others with more experience seem to concur.  More pictures and videos of Brett are available from the agency.

There are two possible outcomes for Brett.  Only two.  He doesn't have the limitless opportunities we have in this country.

The first one, the one I want for him, is a happy ending.  A family.  A mom and dad, or maybe just a mom, to say YES to Brett... where others have said no.

Lately, there have been a string of older boys (the most at-risk group of orphans) appearing on the My Family Found Me page at Reece's Rainbow.  And every time a new one shows up, I rejoice for him, but my heart says, "Why not Brett?"  Fifteen year olds, aging out in a matter of days, have had the adoption community rally around them and been adopted just in time.  Teenagers, on the cusp of being fully grown adults.  By comparison, Brett isn't 'older'.  He's eleven.  I remember eleven.  We traded pokemon cards, danced to music, played dress up in our parents' clothes, loved board games, had sleepovers.  Brett is still a child.  And he has Down Syndrome.  His developmental 'age' is likely much lower.  He's just a little boy... in the body of an eleven year old.  So I ask again... Why not Brett?  Why, never Brett?  Why is he not one that people rally behind?  Because he doesn't come from the 'right' institution?  Because no adopting families have met him?  None of these things are his fault!  No more obstacles than have been overcome in previous cases.

He's just another little boy, locked away in a place he doesn't belong... probably very rural, from what we know, which is likely to increase his hardship, especially during the winter.  Heat and food can be hard to come by in rural areas without reliable routes of transportation for all seasons... so while you're celebrating Christmas, instead of celebrating with you, eyes lighting up brighter than the Christmas tree, he's probably cold, and hungry.

'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'   ...whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

If Christ our Lord was sitting in that institution... would you not save him?

But He is.

He is in every one of us... especially the least of these.

Which group are you in?  Those who do, or those who don't?

Because, the second possible outcome of Brett's life is unimaginable.  I don't need a long paragraph to describe it.  He will spend the rest of his life in a mental institution with sub-par care, until one day, he dies there.  He will rock, chew his hands, bite his tongue, stare at blank walls, shiver, maybe starve... and then he will die.  He'll be buried in an unmarked grave, or maybe a grave marked only with a wooden stick and a number.  Again, nameless, and again, belonging to nobody... the same way he started out.

That is not the life he was saved for.  I refuse to believe it.  That can't be his future.  Not after all the obstacles he's overcome already.  Brett is a fighter - in a good way, of course - but there's only so much he can do for himself in his position.  Right now, he needs you... to help him fight... to get him out... to save him from fading away as alone as he started out.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, so let me allow the pictures to illustrate the stark contrast between these two futures.

Here's the one he can have if you say YES to him.

And here's the one he'll have if you turn away.

I've been pleading for Brett since the day I saw his picture.  Like the day the stranger came upon him in that field, I believe it was fate that I saw him.  But I can't adopt him.  I'm too young for his country's requirements and I always will be.  The law requires parent and child to be at least 15 years apart in age.  I've posted his picture everywhere.  I've written countless blog posts for him.  I've done fundraisers for him.  I shaved my head for one of them!  Since that day a year and a half ago, his grant has grown by over $2,500 (although certainly not by my own hand).  But I can't save him.  Not alone.

I'm a realistic person.  I know not everyone can or should adopt... but I also know that people do, every day... and sometimes they choose older boys, just like Brett.  Why not him?  And if you're in that group, like me, who couldn't adopt him no matter how hard they tried, that doesn't mean you can't do anything!  Brett needs two things.  He needs money in his Reece's Rainbow account, to help the family who commits to him. You can donate to him here.  But more than anything, he needs to be seen.  So I beg you to share this blog post... far and wide.  If you never do anything I ask again, please, please do this.  Just this would be enough. And if not for me... do it for the abandoned little boy in the field, cold and alone and covered in bug bites.  Or do it for God.  Just do it... please.  This is our chance to get Brett seen... before it becomes an aging out emergency.

Donate.  Share.  Pray.  Adopt.

Be one of those who gives to the least of these... not one of those who turns away.

Please.  I'm begging you.  Don't turn away.  Don't let him stay the way he is right now... nobody's child.

Other blog posts about Brett:

Inquire about Brett