Thursday, May 23, 2013

Cross-cultural Experiences

In the past week and half, we have explored many parts of the culture and history of Lesotho.

Something that is very important to me is that we experience, as fully as possible, the culture of Lesotho and it's people, the Basotho.

We've seen the Basotho blanket nearly everywhere we have gone. So, naturally, we had to get a few.

Also, there is a traditional hat, called the Basotho hat.

I've made the traditional staple of papa (finely ground corn maize) with beef stew.

And today, we stopped at a shop to get some fabric for skirts for all the girls. (Brand new fabric--I'm in heaven!!! So many beautiful, traditional fabrics, so hard to choose.)

But then again, we are also transmitting some culture over to our little girl. Mali is quickly folding into the American lifestyle. (Already, we're ruining her.)

Our time here is flying by.

Good news!! Our visa processing is going along very well and our papers have already been sent on to Jo-burg. Our meetings with the government have gone very well here and tomorrow we have been asked to meet with the Minister of the Ministry of Social Development (this person answers directly to the Prime Minister of Lesotho). This is an honor very few adoptive families have been asked to do. We hope Eric is on his best behavior. :)

Keep praying--it is obvious that God's hand has been with us during this entire trip and for all of our African adventures.

"Sala hantale"
(stay well)

P.S. Only a few days left to buy a tshirt. Go here to find out all the info you need. Please buy one--you'll be one of the cool kids!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Life in Africa

Dumela! (that means "hello" in Sesotho). 

This is just a quick post to say that after a full week, we're here in Africa. 

All 6 Beukers! 

This journey, so far, has been stretching, eye-opening, hard, beautiful, both expected and unexpected. 

We've travelled throughout the city of Maseru (where we've visited the grocery store that is inside the mall), seen a place called KoMe Caves (where people have lived in caves as their primary homes for five generations), and hiked a mountain called Thabu Bosiu (an important place in the history of Lesotho.) There are stories to tell and images to process. We have seen so much in the past few days that it would take pages and pages to describe it to you. 

I know that the thing you want to know is this: how's it going as a family as 6? Well, a lot like our time in Africa. 

We are all learning how to be a family together--the road, at times, has been exactly as we imagined, yet nothing like we imagined. We're all getting to know each other. That process takes time and patience and lots of determination and no small amount of love. Thankfully, God has supplied everything we've needed. Yet, Eric and I still fall into bed at the end of the day, exhausted to the core. 

We have another week and a half here in Lesotho, where our internet is dependent on spending time with friends. After that, we travel back to South Africa for another week and a half for more appointments. I'll post as I can, but can't promise anything. 

Keep us in your prayers. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

This is just a quick check in to let you know that we are in Lesotho and have recently met our daughter. We are now a family of six!!!! Welcome to this crazy family, Sunshine!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Tomorrow We Leave

It is hard to describe this moment.

The bags are mostly packed. The house is mostly clean. Details mostly taken care of.

We're mostly there.

A few small things today: a final soccer game, ballet performance, haircut/donation to Locks of Love, put food in the house for the house sitter, host a Mother's Day lunch, final errands, and put the house in order.

That's it.

In less than 24 hours, we load our bags (way too many of them) full of gifts, donations and personal items and head to airport.

Ready or not, we're ready.

To hold this little one in our arms.
To start to live our new life instead of wondering about it.
To end the waiting pattern where she's there and we're here.

It's time to be a family.

As friends and family you have done more to encourage us with your thoughts and prayers, offers of help, hugs, and unexpected gifts than we could have imagined.

But your job isn't done yet--you have to pray us there and pray us home!

Below you will find our general itinerary and a few specific prayer requests.

Sunday--Leave home!
Tuesday--Arrive in Maseru, Lesotho!
Wednesday--Meet with government officials and go get Sunshine! Begin life as a family of 6!
Friday--First Embassy meeting for official permission to bring her home.
Thursday, May 30--Travel to Joburg, South Africa.
Friday, May 31--First of four appointments in SA for final permission to bring her home.
Sunday, June 9--Get back on a plane to fly home!
Monday, June 10--Arrive in our home city at the airport at about 11:30 a.m.

Here are some things to pray for:
1) Pray for safety: personal and emotional. We're traveling around the world with our three most precious gifts to receive a fourth. And the world is a scary, unknown place.
2) Pray for Sunshine--these next days will be filled with many things that she can't understand. Pray that she knows God's peace, his overwhelming presence, and ultimately the love that we want to share with her.
3) Pray for Josh, Katie and OG--this is a big adjustment for them. Pray they can be the excellent big siblings that they are. Pray they are changed by what they see and experience and that they can see God works and is present in this whole world he created.
4) Pray for Ana, our friend and babysitter extraordinaire. She will be travelling a week from now to join us in Lesotho. Pray for safety on her travels and that her experiences with our family, the orphanage, and others be a blessing to her.
5) Pray for me and Eric. We have a lot of emotion running through us. We're ready and we're scared, we have complete peace and faith, we have moments of fear. We're tired. We are embarking into a new realm of parenthood. We are inadequate for the task.

But this we know: God's got this. He has led us on this journey, full of ups and downs and highs and lows. He has called and we have followed. He has not brought us this far to drop us now. Every moment of the next four weeks, just like the past 2+ years, are known to him. There will be very tough moments--but you know what? it will be Good.

Because God is good, all the time.
All the time, God is good.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Buy an Adoption T-Shirt

Okay, folks, only 3 sleeps left! Three days until we get on a plane and fly around the world to lay hands on the little one we've been waiting for!!

So many thoughts, so many things to do.

I have some thoughts that will be part of another post later, but for now, I want to ask you to: BUY A TSHIRT!!!

I know you've always wanted: a tshirt that shows your support for another's cause.
           a shirt that benefits others.
           a shirt with the outline of Africa.
           a tshirt to wear proudly when you do yardwork or go to your kid's soccer game or grab coffee on Saturday morning
           a tshirt that says that the cares of the world are yours as well.

We are partnering with three other families who are also adopting from African countries to sell t-shirts to benefit our individual adoptions. There are so many options: kids & adult sizes; three colors; regular cotton or wicking. Surely, you can find something you would love.

So, what do you do now? You look over the order form at the bottom of this post. Decide what you want--then, you email, call or physically mail your order to Jaclyn Cooper (who is handling every single detail of this for us!) All orders need to be placed by May 30. And they'll be delivered just after Father's Day (June 16th)

Questions? Well, you can ask me and I'll answer if I have time to or know the answer, but you can always contact Jaclyn. She knows the answers.

Thank you so much for all your love and support!
We're almost there.....

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Let's Take a Trip...

In preparation for our trip around the world, I thought that I would prepare for all of us a brief lesson on the places that we will travel. I love geography and history and social science and world needs, so I wanted to allow each of us the opportunity to learn a little something. 

The Kingdom of Lesotho

Basic Facts:
Placement: Lesotho is located in southern Africa, inside the country of South Africa. 
Square Mileage: 11,718 sq. miles (about the size of the state of Maryland)
Capital: Maseru
Population (2013 estimate)1,936,181. 
Official Languages: English and Sesotho
Currency: Maloti ($1US = 8.91 Mal--which is also the exchange rate for the South African Rand)
Lesotho is also called "The Mountain Kingdom" because of the rugged mountains within it's borders. The Drakensburg Mountains border the eastern side of the country. Because of it's placement in the Southern hemisphere, it experiences seasons opposite those in the Northern hemisphere. Right now, they are heading into winter. During winter, the temperature can bottom in the low 30's. Snow can be found, apparently enough for a ski resort in southern Lesotho. 

Only one tenth of all land in Lesotho is arable, growing corn, wheat, sorghum, pulses (legumes), and barley. The rest of their food is imported from South Africa. 

Lesotho is a monarchy with a parliamentary system like that of Great Britain. In 2012, there was a general election for a new Prime Minister. The monarch is King Letsi III, but he has no real executive or legislative power. 

The history of a country and a people is always complex and there is not enough space to justly describe their fight for independence. Nevertheless, Lesotho gained initial independence, recognized as Basotholand, an protectorate of Britain in the late 1800's. It became the Kingdom of Lesotho in 1966. King Moshoeshoe I (pronounced Me-shew-shew) is an important historical figure. 

The country is made up almost entirely of the Sotho people. About 80% are Christians while the rest practice indigenous religions. The non-Sotho people in the country are usually involved in missionary, aid, or business work. 

Social Issues:

Expected Life Span: 51 years. 
Infant Mortality Rate 55/1000
Unemployment: 45%
HIV/AIDS infection rate: 23%

Things to see and do:
     Visit Semongkong or Malealea: traditional Basotho trading villages that were outposts in the mountains. Semongkong is near  Maletsunyane Falls, one of the highest, single waterfall drops in the world.  
     Ride the Basotho pony.
     Hike/Visit Thabu-Boisu: the mountain where King Moshoeshoe staked his claim and protected his people. 
     Go meet your new daughter. (I'm partial to this one!) 


Friday, May 3, 2013

End of School!!!

Roughing it on the Oregon Trail
(especially when you have to mash your own
cornmeal from popcorn kernals using a meat tenderizer)
Even though this has probably been the craziest year known to our family yet, we did manage to accompish a good deal of school. Starting at the French Revolution and Sir/King/Emporer Napoleon and ending just after the Civil War and the reunification of the US, we covered a lot of fun history. The Oregon Trail & Wagon Trains. The Trail of Tears. The beginnings of inventions that ushered in the Industrial Age.
Look, we made compound!

We learned more about writing and math and thinking and problem solving.

We ran laps and played games and learned more about sports (even if they weren't loved by all).

We were part of a Bible Study that led us to study, more deeply, the book of John and the life of Jesus Christ.

Art Prize with our Field Trip Group
We toured around West Michigan on field trips with friends.

Baking Class!
Most importantly, we all grew up a little bit (or a lot bit), realizing that we are each part of a unique family that has to work hard together. Mostly, though, the kids just think we make them work too hard. They've learned how to change their sheets and sort the laundry, how to read a recipe and measure out ingredients, how to work together to clean up after dinner (so Mommy doesn't have to do it all).

Although it wasn't the year I expected or planned, it was a good year. There were plenty of stops and starts. Three separate weeks of walking pneumonia--one week for each kid. A sudden book deadline that no one expected. Finally, a referral which is leading to a family trip in only a week.

Olivia--Leaving Kindergarten
But we've laughed a lot, we've read some good books, we've had fun.

Josh--Leaving 3rd

It was a good year!

Katie--Leaving 2nd 

Class Picture May 1, 2013
Jersey Junction
(because every school year needs to end with ice cream!)