Monday, November 22, 2010


I love it when babies come home. I love it when the orphan comes home to their forever family. I love reading about it. I love seeing how it changes the life of the orphan and the lives of the family members.

But my heart is still jealously broken every time I read about a baby coming home. Because my babies aren't home. My sister is stuck in a run-down orphanage waiting for us.

The bad thing about having an incredibly active imagination is that you can feel things. I can feel Evan in my arms. I can hear her laughing. I can see her running around with Levi. But she's not there. And this dreamer can't stand it.
I just want my sister home. I don't understand why God wants us to wait. I know He has a reason, but that doesn't make the wait any easier.

I have another sister, though. My other sister is stuck in a Peruvian orphanage. Her birth parents never gave up her legal rights, so she will never be available for adoption.
This hurts almost more than Evan. Evan will come home. She'll grow into adulthood surrounded by people that love her more than anything in the world. She'll grow up knowing that she is God's beautiful daughter, and that she is dearly, dearly loved.
Carmensita won't. My Peruvian sister will never come home.
It breaks my heart. Does she have anyone at the orphanage that loves her like me? I hope so. Are they reading her the bible I got her? I hope so. Does she know that she is dearly loved? I beg God every day that she does.

All through Evan's adoption process, and ever since I got back from Peru, I can't help but feel that this is not the way that God intended things to be. God cannot have meant for one of his children to come home and the other to have to live without a family. God cannot have meant for any of his babies to live without a momma and a daddy and brothers and sisters to love them to pieces. And when I think of how much more His heart breaks for them than mine, I wonder how He can live. He loves Carmensita and Evan. He wants His children to step up and help those who can't help themselves. And I think it's about time we did.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Leader By Default

What is a leader?

"Someone who has incredible character."

"Someone who's excited about their cause and about being a leader."

"Someone who's confident."

"Someone who remains calm in crazy situations."

"Someone who's good at forming relationships."

"Someone who's good at talking to people."

I guess that people automatically assume that I'm a leader because I'm passionate about my cause, and maybe that's true. But, I can promise that I don't always like to be the leader. I don't think I'm a natural leader. I'd rather follow someone else. But, the truth is that in the area of teens aiding with special needs orphans and orphan care in general, there isn't anyone else to take the lead. I wasn't born a leader. I was forced to be a leader because no one else will step up and do what needs to be done.

And I can't stand it. I am a natural worrier, and I can't begin to tell you how stressed I've been the past few days. I'm running two fundraisers for the Christmas Warrior Project 2010, not to mention school, church, orchestra, and all sorts of other things. I would give up the Christmas Warrior Project. I really would. But I can't. Because NO ONE ELSE CARES ENOUGH TO TAKE THE LEAD. Only me. That's not me being such a natural leader - that's me being forced to lead because no one else will.

I don't like leading. Frankly, I don't think I'm very good at it. I definitely don't have "incredible character". I'm not excited about being a leader. I'm not confident. I have a breakdown when things don't go perfectly right. And I'm absolutely terrible at forming relationships and talking to people, especially people I don't know.

But this is where God has put me. And, I guess he likes to be ironic. Because He chose the worst possible person to lead in the world. A person who stresses so much she can't believe her brain hasn't exploded. A person who is scared of talking to "normal" teenagers because she's afraid they won't like her. A person who doesn't want to lead. God shows us again and again that He likes to use our weaknesses to show His strengths.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Life In Fast Forward

I feel like my life has been in fast forward for the past few weeks.

With the help of many, many generous people, I sent off donated clothes, toys, and stuffed animals for the orphans in the orphanage I visited in Peru so that they could get Christmas gifts. The woman who took the gifts down for me was also kind enough to take down three lovingly wrapped shoeboxes, each filled perfectly, with a translated, hand-written note. I love all the kids I met in Peru, but Carmensita, Hectór, and Cesár have a special place in my heart.

I also had the opportunity to volunteer with Show Hope, Steven and Mary Beth Champan's organization that helps fund adoptions and started a special needs orphanage in China. This past weekend was what they called their "Fellowship Weekend", where out-of-town donors come in to see where Show Hope is going and be honored.

Some teenagers were valet parking cars on Friday night. For the first time in a while, I am so incredibly thankful that I don't have my license yet. I was helping sell merchandise. The night before, Chris Wheeler, my old youth pastor, and the director of the new Student Initiatives branch at Show Hope, sent me a text message asking me if I would be willing to share in front of the donors why I cared about orphans so much while he explained what Student Initiative was all about.

I was hesitant - I always am when it comes to talking in front of people - but I accepted. God had put this opportunity in front of me, and I wasn't about to miss it. Although, I did warn Chris that he, of all, people, knew I wasn't a very good speaker.

While my anxiety never brought on a panic attack (thank the Lord), and I never got to the point where I couldn't eat, I was still tense. I was nervous. I hadn't really thought about what I'd say. Why did I care about orphans so much?

My stomach was twisting and turning as the time came for me to go on stage. Three of my fellow orphan advocate friends came up as well. Of course, I just happened to be sitting closest to Chris, so I had to go first.

"Let me introduce you all to Tori Hook," he said, putting a hand on my shoulder. "Tori has a blog." I froze. Chris had not said a word to me about this. He did not tell me he was going to talk about my blog. And, as honored as I was that my blog was good enough for Chris to share, I still felt embarrassed. I didn't want all this attention. I didn't deserve all this attention. And, I didn't want people thinking I was some sort of SuperChristian just because I'm good at writing. But, he continued.

"Tori's blog is called Shining City Teens, and let me just read you all what it says about the blog..."

He went on to read EVERY SINGLE WORD of Shining City's mission AND the "about the author" section. I'm surprised the entire audience could not see the beet red of my face. Especially when Chris got to the part about how my favorite things are cookies, candles, Snuggies, and classical music.

Then he handed me the mic, saying, "Why do you care so much about special needs orphans?"

I felt my mouth go dry, my pre-planned words leave my brain, and leave a blank chasm where my mind used to be. So I did the only thing I could. I let God talk for me.

"Like Chris said, I have three siblings. All adopted. Two of them have Down syndrome. And they have changed my life like crazy. But the thing that really gave me a passion and a fire for special needs orphan care is: when I went to Peru this summer, I saw the special needs kids there unable to live up to their potential. Because they don't have the resources. They don't have what we have here. And it struck me that the only difference between my brother and sister and those kids is that my brother and sister have a forever family. And, I don't think that, as a Christian, I can stand by and watch while kids like my brother and sister are desperate for someone to love them."

I am always amazed that my words come out so smooth. People always tell me how good I am at public speaking. But, really, truly, it cannot be me. If God left me on my own when I was public speaking, I would probably puke, faint, start crying, or all three. But, somehow, God transforms my weakness into something beautiful. I guess that's just how He works.

The team who brought the gifts to Peru also came back a few days ago. Unbeknownst to be, they had distributed the gifts while they were there, and gotten pictures of the kids. Just yesterday, a man who was on the trip explained to me that he had gotten a video of one little girl opening her box. My hand flew over my mouth, tears sprung into my eyes, and my heart literally stopped. There were only three boxes, and only one little girl. That could only mean one thing - they'd gotten a video of Carmensita for me. They got a video of my baby girl opening her Christmas present. I broke down sobbing in the middle of the Sunday school hallway. They also have some pictures of the other orphans getting their gifts, which I will post, along with the video of Carmensita, as soon as I get them.

My dad is speaking at youth church on Wednesday. I'm leaving for a weekend vacation with a friend on Thursday. The Christmas Warrior Project 2010 is taking off. My heart is SCREAMING ideas for the orphanage in Peru. My life is on fast forward. At least for now.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Christmas Warrior Project 2010

I have a passion for special needs children. It's the way God made me. He made me to be a fighter for these precious children, but the truth is, God calls everyone to care for "those who cannot speak for themselves," to care for "the least of these."
The truth is that once we know the wrongs of the world, we can't pretend like we don't know what's going on. God does not look kindly upon people who see His most vulnerable, most destitute children and turn their eyes away because they don't want to deal with it.

I'm going to reveal a bit of the truth today. In places like Russia and Eastern Europe, special needs children with conditions like cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and autism are orphaned at birth. They are abandoned because there is such a large social stigma against them. Their own parents refuse to think them beautiful, to recognize them as the gift from God they are. These children are put into poorly run orphanages. Oftentimes, they are left strapped to chairs, unable to progress because no one gives them the chance to.

When these children turn 4, they are given a test, a test that asks them things they would never know because they've never been allowed outside the orphanage. If they cannot pass this test, they are labeled an "imbecile" and sent to an institution.

In these institutions, children are tied down in cribs, left to starve for weeks on end, lying in their own filth, their cries ignored by their entire country. Here they wither away, unheard, and die, most within a year of being transferred to an institution.

While this is a disturbing and disgusting reality, there is still hope - the hope of adoption. The Statz family has chosen to bring home little Claire, who has Down syndrome, from Russia. But, adoption from Russia is expensive, and they need all the help they can get. The goal of the Christmas Warrior Project 2010 is to aid the Statz family in bringing home Claire, as she is nearing her 4th birthday, and needs to be brought home as soon as possible. Our goal is $1000 or more.

If you would like to donate to bring home this precious baby girl who, otherwise, is destined to die in a filthy crib, you can contact me at:

Even a dollar or two will help to bring Claire home. Now you know the horrible truth. And you cannot pretend like you don't.

If you say, "Hey, that's none of my business,"
Will that get you off the hook?
Someone is watching you closely, you know,
Someone not impressed with weak excuses.
- Proverbs 24:12

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Why Do We Not Trust Him?

It strikes me how many collective hours, collective days even, that we spend worrying. And, truthfully, none of it really matters. Drama with friends? I probably won't even be friends with these people in ten years. A bad grade on a test? Who's going to remember that even in one year?

We spend so much time fretting about things that don't matter, and it is draining our lives.

I'm in Chemistry this year (which is modern-day torture), but through the class, we've learned about how things like the air are formed, and how the things that form the air are formed, and how those things are formed. And, I think, Wow. My God made each microscopic bit of what makes up air absolutely perfect so that I could breathe it. He made it so that two elements that he created just happen to form water perfectly.

If God can do all of that, and do it so that it runs absolutely perfectly, why do I not trust Him? Why in the world would I not trust the person who could take our mess of the world and turn it into a fully-functioning machine to take care of me, his most special and intricately designed creation?

It doesn't make any sense. And I am ashamed for it. How must He feel to know that his children, His best friends, his treasures don't even trust Him to take care of them in the simplest situations? It's no wonder He doesn't give us anything big to do - we can't even trust Him with the small things. He sees us destroy ourselves trying to do things on our own, and then shove Him away when he tries to help. We are such monsters. We push away the only person who can help us because of our own selfish pride. It is disgusting.

And what's amazing is that He still loves us, even after all this. So, you have to ask yourself, Why do we not trust Him?

Photography by Tori H.