Monday, January 31, 2011

The Movement

If you haven't heard, I'm real big on orphan care. And when it comes to orphan care, nothing makes me more excited than The Movement.

The Movement, brought to you by Show Hope, is simply put: students caring for orphans. As we all know at Shining City Teens, teenagers are way more capable of doing things for God than most people give us credit for. This is a way that we can prove it. That we can show the world what students are capable of.

The Movement clubs are located in schools across Williamson County, like Brentwood High School, Franklin High School, Ravenwood, BA, and even homeschool! These clubs will bring awareness to the orphan crisis, and help fund and care for both adoptive families and orphans who are waiting for a forever family.

We hope to take the Movement across the nation someday, but right now we're starting in Williamson County, TN.

This coming Saturday, there is a HUGE event - The Movement Kick-Off Event! If you live anywhere near Franklin, or even if you live nowhere near middle TN, you won't want to miss it! Featuring music by the band CALEB (Steven Curtis Chapman's sons) and guest speakers Chris Wheeler, Sarah Rooker, and Caroline Greene. It's going to be awesome!

If you're on fire for orphans, come. If you've never thought about orphans in your life, come. If you think orphans are stupid, come (you can still get a 9 Fruits smoothie). This Saturday night, Feb. 5 from 7:00 to 9:00 at Liberty Hall in the Factory at Franklin. Admission is an 8 oz. baby bottle or $5. Bring extra money for awesome merchandise that benefits orphan care.

Join the Movement and be the difference in the lives of orphans today.

Friday, January 28, 2011

He Opens a Window

Well, the news from Russia was not good. Not bad, but not good either. The judge did not look at our documents. She will give us an answer next Wednesday (late Tuesday, early Wednesday in the U.S.).

While it's not as bad as it could've been, this news crushed me. Absolutely crushed me. I thought, we have so many people praying. We've been waiting for so long. Surely, surely, this would be it. But no. All we got was more waiting.

I ask that you continue to keep Evan and the judge of her region in your prayers this week. The need for them is still as urgent as it was earlier this week.

But when God closes a door, He always opens a window. I will be going to both Peru and China this summer! While that is a lot of money to raise, I fully believe that God can do anything, even raise over $5000 by the summer.

Also, God has been opening windows for a new ministry that some friends and I are starting at the Sagrada Familia Orphanage (Carmensita's orphanage). Because this ministry is still in the works, I can't reveal everything yet, but hopefully I'll be able to give a lot more information after a little while.

Sometimes it's hard to understand why God does things, but we have to grasp that it's for our own good to truly understand that each closed door is an open window in disguise.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Urgent Prayer Request

Dear Friends and Family,

We write this to give you a quick update and, primarily, to ask for your prayers.

As many of you know, our adoption has not moved forward as quickly as we had hoped. It seems that our region in Russia is the only one having these delays. The news we received this week is both good and not-so-good. The good news is that our facilitator in Russia will be meeting with our Judge on Wednesday to present our dossier in order to get a final court date. From this meeting, the judge has three options: issue a court date, take our case under review, or refuse to issue a court date.

The importance of this meeting cannot be overstated. We are asking you to pray on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning (Russia is 9 hours ahead).

The not-so-good news we received is why we are so desperate for your prayers. There are 3 families trying to adopt children with Down syndrome from this region. Two of us have already met our children. The third family is waiting to be invited for their first visit. They were told last week that the Ministry of Education (like our Dept. of Children's Services) will not issue a travel date until the two families who have already traveled have their adoptions finalized. Their reasoning: They don't believe the judge will okay the adoptions of the two other families who are adopting children with Down syndrome.

As you can see, the need is urgent. Our little girl will be the FIRST CHILD WITH DOWN SYNDROME EVER ADOPTED OUT OF THIS REGION. For reasons we simply don't know, the judge appears to have some hesitation in finalizing these adoptions.

Please pray that her heart will soften, and that she will grant court dates and allow these beautiful children to have families. Pray that our sweet girl gets to come home. Pray that something changes in the judge at the deepest level, because she has the ability to influence that region in a powerful way. How wonderful it would be to see the Spirit of God move in Russia through a little girl : )

Thank you for standing with us. Please pass this on to anyone who will join us in prayer.

Tori and the rest of the Hook family

Thursday, January 20, 2011


I am empty, thirsty, weary,
Coming back to you with empty hands.
You are waiting for me, you fill me, gently
Bring me back to you, once again.
~ "First Love"

I look back at blog posts about our adoption from a year ago and I think, "Wow. And I thought I was tired of waiting then."

I'll probably look back at this blog post in a month or two and think the same thing.

Every step of the way, the waiting gets harder. I get more and more frustrated. I feel like I'm in a pitch black room. I can't see where I'm going. I'm scared. I'm tired. I want to find light, but I can't. I'm fumbling around with my arms in front of me, trying to find something to hold on to. It's like I know that God's hand is there, but I can't feel it. I can't find it. And it scares me.

Another blogger recently did I post on our family and three others adopting from our same region. About how long we've been waiting. About how we need prayer. She said, "They are scared and weary of broken promises."

That is so true. I am so scared. I'm terrified that I can't see in front of me. I am so tired. Exhausted. Our agency has been "cautiously optimistic" about a court date for six months. Those words have literally no weight with me now because we've heard them so much. Every single week they tell us they think we'll get a court date and every single week our hopes are crushed. I don't know why I bother getting my hopes back up again every week. It hurts just as much or more every time.

I am so incredibly tired of this waiting. It scares me that I have no power. It scares me that my sister is living in an orphanage. It scares me that I have nightmares of her dying. If this is the Devil attacking, then so be it. But, I need my God. If I'm going to be attacked weekly, and even while I'm sleeping, I need Him.

I try to be so strong about it. I try to keep a good attitude. I try and tell people that God has everything under control. That God has a reason for everything. I tell them not to get discouraged, when I struggle telling myself the same exact thing.

When I do tell people how frustrated and broken and tired I am, I struggle to keep from crying.

I am asking for some immense prayer. I am asking for warrior prayer. Across the world, a little girl with Down syndrome is sitting in an orphanage waiting for a family. Pray her home.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Real Relationship with God

Sometimes I wonder if you can truly have a relationship with God. One like all the preachers and books talk about where you instinctively trust God and follow His will without question. One where the Holy Spirit continually fills you up so that you're bursting with joy even in times of hardship.

Because at the times when I feel like my relationship with God is at its best, when we're closer than ever before, it still pales in comparison to how it "should be." I wonder: Will I ever really know Him? Will I ever be able to depend on God for everything?

Hungry for that relationship that I know exists, I read books about it. I scoured the internet for it. I did everything I could to form that relationship with God. Everything, that is, except what I needed to be doing.

You see, there is now "How To" guide for having a relationship with God. Because relationships aren't easy. They're not easy with enemies, acquaintances, friends, or family. It's the hardest to have a good relationship with those you know best. How much harder is it to have a relationship with God? A real relationship with God. You have to want it. You have to be willing to do whatever it takes to form that relationship.

A relationship with God is all about following and trusting. If you follow God's will for your life, He'll enable you to accomplish it. Stepping out in faith and trusting God is the only way to a deep relationship with Him. You have to trust Him. You have to eliminate your excuses for not doing what He wants you to and realize that God can do anything. There is absolutely no excuse for not doing what He wants us to. Remove the excuses. Then only two questions remain: What does God want you to do? And why are you not doing it?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Answers - Or Lack Thereof

I'm the kind of person who likes everything to be in order. I like things to be well-planned out. I like to know exactly what's going to happen long before it does. In short, I like answers. And I like to have them fast.

Unfortunately for me, that's not always the way God works.

I'll admit that when I fasted last weekend, I expected answers right away. I expected God to reveal exactly what I was supposed to do exactly when I wanted him to. And He didn't.

After much pointless fretting and worrying, I took the advice of my parents and decided to wait until the last minute to make a decision, giving God as much time as possible to reveal His will to me. While this definitely seemed like a good plan, it went against every fiber of my planning-obsessed being not to want a fast decision. To want to make that decision before I needed to.

Well, I've hit the deadline. And there was no magic revelation, no time that I knew exactly, positively that this is what God wanted me to do. But, throughout the week, everything has pushed me towards making this one, certain decision. It's made me more confident about it, and I think that's God's way of telling me what He wants me to do.

This year, I will be applying to go to both China and Peru. This is approximately $5,500 in mission trips. I have to raise that by summer. At first I thought it was crazy. In fact, everyone else thought it was crazy too. How in the world could I raise that much by summer? I had trouble raising the $1,500 for Peru last year - this was more than triple that!

But God's in the business of crazy. I fully believe now that this is what God wants me to do. The only thing holding me back was fear that I couldn't do it, that God couldn't do it. But He can. And He will.

Friday, January 7, 2011


I've never fasted before. Truthfully, I never wanted to, never really saw the point.

Fasting, though, is not simply "starving yourself for God", which is what I always thought it was (hence never seeing a point). When you think about how hungry you are, you instead direct your mind to whatever you want to be praying for or about. This keeps you focused on God and what you intended to be focused on.

Today and tomorrow, I'm fasting. For various reasons, some that can't be shared yet, but also for a decision that I have to make soon.

In the next year, I have the potential opportunity to go to both Peru and China. I'll be caring for orphans in both places. I feel called to both places. The only problem: I don't know that I have the resources to raise the funds for both places.

I fully believe that if I'm supposed to go to both China and Peru, God will provide the funds for both. But, I don't want to rush in and commit to both when God doesn't really want me to.

Hence the fasting. Well, part of it. I hope with all my heart that God will reveal something to me during this time. All I want is His will to be done, whether that be China, Peru, or both.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

My Own Little World

Guest post by Caleb Lococo.

"In my own little world it hardly ever rains. I've never gone hungry, always felt safe. I've got some money in my pocket, shoes on my feet. In my own little world, where it's population: me."

Hello fellow residents of Shining City! Tori asked me to do this post following an experience I have just returned from. Tori mentioned it in one of her latest posts, "Joy Over Jealousy." I had the privelege of getting to go over to Ukraine to help my Dad complete the adoption of my family's 6th (yes, 6th) child, miss Julia Mary, who has Down syndrome. Previous to this trip, I would say my view of the world was pretty safe and sheltered. My parents had already been there once for the court proceedings to legalize everything on the country's end of things, and they had already gotten the chance to see Julia and her orphanage. The fact that they were going before I was would be an impact shield for anything tough I might see. I would be ready for anything.

Except for what I saw with my heart, and not with my eyes.

Going over, I had read about other people's experiences doing this. They arrived in the country, fell in love with their child, and fell in love with the orphanage as well, for better or worse. They were happy to leave, but they never forgot it. I went over with the mindset of "God, this is your ball. You have the floor, and you'll give me the experience I need." But secretly, I already had my own expectations for the trip. I would spend time with my Dad, take pictures, get ready for taking Julia home, and then hit the road ASAP. No strings attached to the orphanage, nothing. Sure, I'd remember the orphanage, the country, and the orphanage would always hold a place in my heart because that was Julia's home, but another little orphan catching onto me just wasn't in the cards. It didn't fit my bill.

While hanging with Dad, taking pictures, and getting to spend some quality time with Julia was a large part of my trip, other things took on a life of their own. The village surrounding Julia's orphanage, while not an Africa/South America level of poverty, isn't in tip-top shape. The roads are bumpy, pot-holed, and made of dirt. The houses (offset by the occasional rich person's gated mini-mansion) are generally made of cement or brick, with a crude, 7 ft. concrete wall guarding each house on all sides. The school building while, again, not in bad condition, looks like it's the same building they erected in the 60's, and hence looks a little banged up in places. There is a tiny little hut comparable to an American Ice Cream Stand that happens to be the corner store. Timid, stray dogs roam the streets. It sets a certain mood as you come up to the orphanage of just what a miracle it is the orphanage is as well-off as it is.

When you go to the orphanage, your view of what goes on is pretty sheltered. Our driver escorted us up to the second floor where Julia's groupa (her group of kids that shared a room with her) lived. He debated with the nannies for a minute, and then told us to wait for five minutes before going down. That first time I walked down the hall to visit Julia, after 36 hours of sitting on planes, in airports, and in trains, I was so excited I was trembling all over. Surprisingly the video I took came out quite well :) For the next five days or so, our schedule ran in a pattern: Meet our driveron the sidewalk, drive to the orphanage with our fellow adopting family, the Winkles, visit Julia, and spend the rest of the day seeing the sites of the city, grocery shopping, hagning at the apartment or visiting with the Winkles.

On Gotcha Day, though, things changed drastically. It was the first time I was allowed in Julia's crib room. The room isn't huge, but it comfortably fits the six or seven cribs that line the walls. The workers were making the most of dressing Julia for the last time, fussing over her hair and making sure that Dad had brought the seventeen layers of clothes that are orphanage protocol. I was left to wander the room, visiting the other kids. One little guy I had met on another occasion (whom I dubbed Bruiser) was hanging out in his crib and didn't seem very interested in me when I went over. In the crib next to him, though, was a little girl. She wasn't too much larger than Julia in stature, but her face looked a little older. I quickly realized that this was Sonya from Reece's Rainbow who was staring at me, and that this wasn't the first time I had heard of her. When I said her name, the little eyes that had lit up to when given attention grew even brighter. I got to play with her for another ten or fifteen minutes before it was time to go.

But in that split second, my heart changed. It opened to another little orphan. My heart attached to the orphanage, as well, because I realized what a treasure it housed. I knew full well the circumstance of kids with Down syndrome or just about any special needs who were put into orphanages and aged out. I knew how bad things could be. And I cringed at it. But I had never actually met one of those little souls. I had never seen the fire in their eyes, or heard their tiny giggle, or felt their little hands in mine. Now it was different. Now that I have met one of these precious little souls, my reslove is all the stronger to see less of them transferred. To see less face that doom.

And God made my trip even more meaningful.

If there's one message I can leave you with, it's this: there are orphans in every corner of the world. Here, most are in foster care. Everywhere else, though, they either have to fend for themselves and roam the streets, or face whatever institutional life their country has for them. But either way, what would it be like putting your little brother, sister, son, nephew, or daughter, in the place of that little one? Then what would you do? Speak for those who have no voice. Feed those who have no food. Clothe those who have no clothes.

Give homes to those who have none.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Learning To Trust

It's officially 2011. My family celebrated New Year's in a quiet way - playing dominoes and watching movies. While we were visibly happy, I think it was weighing on all of our minds that another year had come and gone and our baby girl still wasn't home.

You see, there's a fear inside of me. What if Evan doesn't come home? How long are we willing to wait? We love Evan with everything in us, but how do we know that Russia isn't going to keep holding their power over us, making us wait longer, fill out more paperwork, do more lab tests, in a vicious cycle over and over. It's not like they care about us. Or her. What if Russia never releases its grip? We've spent tons of time and money that could have been directed to bringing another orphan to a forever family. A part of me stubbornly and fiercely insists that I will never, never give up on Evan, while the other whispers that another baby could have a home.

I can't yet tell if this is God's voice telling us it's time to move on, or Satan's voice trying to persuade us to stop pursuing Evan when really we're closer than we know.

You see, I struggle with this on a daily basis, this fear that takes over your life. A wise mentor once told me that fear was a sin. Fear was the act of not trusting God to take care of you. It breaks my heart. It breaks my heart that I have to pray to my God, whom I apparently don't trust, and beg Him to please help me learn how to trust Him because I sure can't do it on my own.

Even now, I'm awake at 2:00 in the morning with my lights on, writing a New Year's blog post because it's storming and when it storms I'm afraid there'll be a tornado and we'll all die. I try to trust Him. I really do. I sit with my lights out, shaking and trying to keep calm, but I can't. I just can't do it.

My New Year's resolution? Learn to trust my God. Or at least try to. They say that God comes to those who truly seek Him. I guess we'll find out.