Blog post written by Jenni Ramsey
Last month Hailey and I traveled to Nashville to attend Christian Alliance for Orphans' Summit 9. It was an honor to represent All Blessings Intl. at my third Summit, which exploded in registrations with 2600 participants from 25 nations and 49 states. Registration actually closed the week before Summit due to maximum capacity. Clearly God is moving His Church to care for orphans.
It is difficult to describe how it felt to worship, connect and even cry alongside believers from around the world who share my passion for orphans, foster care, missions and adoption. Every speaker and breakout session was moving. The session on deinstitutionalization examined the ramifications of institutionalized care and passionately discussed how to find permanent solutions for children without families. I listened to a panel of multi-ethnic adoptive families and laughed and grieved as they shared the joys and challenges they face in daily life. I was especially moved as I listen to Emily Richards, the daughter of Stephen Curtis Chapman, speak on the theology of adoption, God's father heart for his children and the "forever family" that we are adopted into when we become believers.
The above photo was taken for a Summit photo contest on "hopes and dreams" for orphans.
There were many unexpected surprises during the trip. On the first day of Summit I received an email from our former adoption agency notifying us that our adoption paperwork had been returned to them by El Salvador. They wanted to know if they should shred it. This email stirred up painful emotions that had been hidden in the depths of my soul. As I listened to David Platt, author of "Radical" (the book that all of my outreach team members are required to read), speak in the closing session, I was shocked by his heartbreaking journey of a failed adoption. David and his wife tried for many years to adopt a baby girl in Nepal, but their dream died when Nepal closed for adoption. They later adopted a baby in China and started a ministry in Nepal as a result of their passion for the country of their broken dreams. I couldn't believe the parallels in our stories!
As David shared about their failed adoption, the floodgates opened and I began to weep uncontrollably. I wept as though I was grieving a stillborn birth or a miscarriage. I wept for the injustice that we experienced with our first agency and for a country that struggles to create family plans for abandoned children. I had no idea that I needed to grieve so deeply and it was truly healing for my soul. As I gazed at Hailey through my tears, I was reminded of God's redemption. He truly does work all things together for good. If He had not led us to adopt in El Salvador, we would not have been led to Hailey. We also may not have become aware of the desperation in orphanages in El Salvador and may not be leading trips today. It was so special to be sitting next to Larry and Tammie May, dear friends who adopted in El Salvador and have supported our adoption journey, as I wept. Larry served with me in El Salvador last year and their family has become part of our family. I loved introducing Hailey to "Uncle Larry" and "Aunt Tammie". We are forever family.
Throughout the week I loved spending time with other former El Salvador and Guatemala team members and numerous families who have adopted through All Blessings. Hailey and I stayed at the home of Phil (Larry's brother) and Amy May, who served with me in Guatemala in 2011. The Mays adopted their beautiful daughter, Sophie, in Guatemala four years ago. It was so precious to watch Sophie and Hailey play together. The Mays will be serving on our team again this November and have become very dear friends. Thanks "Uncle Phil" for babysitting Hailey!
Lisa Bussard and her daughter served on our 2011 Guatemala team as well and hope to return this year. The Bussards played a significant role in collecting jeans and raising funds for uniforms for the children at Casa Bernabe orphanage. Lisa and Amy took me on a tour of Nashville after Summit and I fell in love with the city. I was also struck by the Southern hospitality and hope to bring our family back one day.
I enjoyed another "girls' night out" with an amazing group of adoptive moms during Summit. Heidi Weimer (pictured below in the middle) has a powerful adoption story and founded "We Have Room" with her husband. I loved spending time with Heidi and Tabitha Lovell, the travel agent for our outreach trips. Tabitha has been a tremendous blessing handling all of our international flights and she is currently in the process of adopting in Congo. I loved spending time with such inspiring women!
Jon and Christella Hudson recruited a team of twelve to serve with me in El Salvador last May. The Hudsons also adopted their son, Freddy, through All Blessings in Korea. They drove all the way from Kentucky so that we could spend time together and I even experienced Tennessee's famous, "Cracker Barrel" restaurant. Aren't these kids adorable?
One of the highlights for me in leading orphan outreach teams has been the incredible people that I have met along the journey. Every trip has been life changing and every team member has become like family. I am so thankful to All Blessings for the opportunity to lead teams to experience the father heart of God for abandoned and orphan children. The location for Summit 10 has not yet been announced, but I hope to be there next year! Stayed tuned...