Monday, November 14, 2011

The Tapestry of God: Finding Our Way Home

(This is part five of the series, The Tapestry of God)

Lawson, Marion and Lincoln have been trying to find their way home for the past two years.  Their hope of ever finding their way lasted as long as the days of winter.  It was winter when their security of home became as bare as the trees, with their hope falling to the ground.

These inseparable children wear contagious smiles.  But behind the smiles, a feeling of despair strangles the hope inside, the hope of ever finding their way home.  "Who would ever want to bring home three children?" is a haunting question.  That question finally has an answer from a couple living in Georgia.

Suzanne grew up in Louisiana country with grandparents living on both sides.  She moved once, only half a mile down the same road.  It was a simple, God-fearing home that took pride only in the powerful bond of family.  It was a stable home that lived on love, with little need for lots of money.

Unlike Suzanne, Frank lived in many places.  The family moved where the jobs moved.  Frank spent most of his childhood living in mobile homes, only to personify the mobile lifestyle.  It was a home of practical jokes and laughter, with little to no realization that lack of money was a problem.  This only grew their faith stronger in the Lord.

We (Frank & Suzanne) did not grow up in fancy homes, drive fancy cars or eat fancy food.  The houses in which we lived were either built by family or had wheels.  The cars were always pre-owned with an occasional dent or missing hood.  (Another story.)  Our steaks were chicken-fried with ketchup as our sauce.  We are not fancy people.  But God was leading us to buy a fancy house.

About three years ago, we moved to Cartersville, GA to work alongside wonderful people in ministry at First Baptist.  We were looking for that modest, not too fancy home.  With the housing market in despair, we had an opportunity for a major upgrade.  Was this right?  Was this something we were suppose to do?  This house was more space than we needed.  However, we felt a peace about what God was showing us, but did not understand.

We now understand.  God has made it clear He wanted us in this home, for this time and purpose.  He wanted this home inflated with love for God, for family and for the orphan.  As a family of eight (and a big, black lab), we can now say every inch of this house will be used.  Many people reading this blog have contributed to making this house work for all these kids.  The love of our friends and family is overwhelming.  And the love does not stop there.

There is love waiting in that home.  Love not just from a mom and dad anxious for home, but of two brothers and a sister anxious to meet their new siblings.  We have talked so much about Lawson, Marion and Lincoln, but waiting at home are three siblings who have made us extremely proud.

Madison, Landon and Logan have been a part of this adoption process for two years.  They were on board from day one.  They never questioned that God was leading us to adopt a child.  And when the news from Ukraine arrived that three children were coming home instead of one, our kids back in Euharlee were more energized and excited.

Tears are falling as words are being typed about these amazing kids, who have been playing ball games with stands empty of cheers from mom and dad.  Landon has given up his entire matching bedroom set for a brother he has yet to meet.  Logan and Landon have given up their rooms to move two flights of stairs away from the family in the basement.  Madison has given up her matching bedroom set to a girl named Marion, a girl whom she has prayed for while lying in that same bed.  And the most amazing part?  These kids are sharing the intimate bond between mom and dad with three young strangers.

We could not have done this without the help of friends and family members.  We could not have done this without the Lord.  And we surely could not have done this without the three most amazing kids in the world, who are waiting to welcome home and celebrate the journey's end for Lawson, Marion and Lincoln.

Last Sunday was International Orphan Sunday.  Our mandatory 10-day waiting period was officially over on Orphan Sunday.  They are no longer captive to the haunting questions or hopeless despair circling in their dreams.  They have been released.

Tomorrow is a special day.  We will throw a party for their orphan friends and teachers.  We will say our goodbyes and walk away one last time.  We will begin our way home, a home full of God's love and the mercy of His Son, Jesus.

It's winter here in Ukraine.  The leaves have fallen and the snow is beginning to stick.  But under the cold, hard ground is a seed of hope.  A seed that will find it's home in the warmth of the Son.  Welcome Home.

(Come back to our blog for: The Tapestry of God: Thanksgiving in Living Colors)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Tapestry of God: The Story of Lawson, Marion and Lincoln

(This is part four of the series: The Tapestry of God)

Almost two years ago three children were found in a park in the southern part of Ukraine.  They had seen their mother make bad choices for her and themselves, and ultimately waste her life away.  The beautiful lives that called her "Mama" were taken from her.  She lost them because of addictions she could not shake.

Vladislav, Anistasia and Maxim were sent to an orphanage in a village outside of Simferopol, Ukraine.  There they would wait and not receive a visit from any relative for the next 18 months.  They were outcasts.  They were strangers.  They were orphans.

We were peering through the fogged windows of a taxi as we made our way down a muddy road.  The village showed signs of new life as homes were being pieced together brick by brick using tools not seen since the early 1900's.  But one could also see remains of homes that had seen many years of transition in this country.  People walking their goats and working their gardens squinted to focus in on the visitors coming into their village.

Our taxi passed through a large gated entrance protecting the inhabitants.  Metal playgrounds mixed with tall trees bordered a wide sidewalk leading to the orphanage.  In the center of the estate was a mansion dating back to the early 1800's where a wealthy family once governed the village.  The broken windows mocked the rich history, a time before wars tore through this land.

We made our way through the dark, narrow halls of this orphanage to the director's office.  She was pleasant, yet a strict protector of the children who call this place home.  Three children were escorted to the office for us to meet.  We spent a few minutes with them, communicating through our facilitator.  We agreed to come back for a couple days to see if the children were right for us.  But in our hearts we knew we were where God wanted us to be.

We spent the next week visiting with the children.  The characteristic about these children that shined above the rest was the amount of smiles that frequented their faces.  They were happy children.  But there were times when we asked ourselves, "Is this what we are suppose to do?"  We realized we were going through a crisis.  It's only natural to go through a crisis of belief when following through with something God has told you to do.  To get through this required faith and action.  The prayers lifted up by hundreds of people helped us through this time.

In the meantime, our facilitator was working to get the right paperwork in the correct hands at the appropriate deadlines.  Our schedule was moving right along, thanks again to the prayers of the saints back home.  It was soon time for our court date, a meeting I will never forget.

Vladislav and Anistasia were dressed to look their best.  All the children in the orphanage share clothes, but this special day was reserved for special clothes.  Maxim stayed back, for he was not of age to stand before the judge.  These two little ones made us very proud.  The judge asked them if they wanted to have a new father and mother, a new life, a new name and to leave the past behind.  During this encounter the parallels were leaping out of this story.  We could only smile at the what God was showing us.

When someone puts their faith in Christ, they have to accept Him and confess Him. (Romans 10:9-10)  When they do, they are agreeing to a new life, with a new name and to leave the past behind.  They are no longer a stranger, an orphan.  They have a Father in Heaven who loves them and is preparing a place for them.

There are people back home helping us to prepare a place for these children who have confessed to the judge and accepted us as parents.  They are getting to know their new father and mother.  On the playground they cry out, "Mama, Papa".  And they are answering to their new names.

Thank you for helping us celebrate the new lives of Lawson, Marion and Lincoln.

(Come back to our blog for: The Tapestry of God: Finding Our Way Home)


Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Tapestry of God: Part Three

History tells us the earliest tapestries from the Middle Ages included a total of eight colors.  Ironically, the tapestry God is creating for us involves bringing eight people together in this wonderful, crazy, beautiful and fun Bennett family.

All of our paperwork was completed.  The kids' schedule of football, soccer, school and church activities were planned (12 pages...thank you).  The care givers to look after our kids were kidnapped, brought by force, surrendered scheduled for the anticipated six-weeks stay in Ukraine.  (Thank you grandparents and friends)  Frank and the worship team leadership worked extra hours to plan and prepare for dynamic worship services at Cartersville First Baptist.  All we needed was money.  Oh yea.  That's kind of important.

When we thought about the money, we just stopped and prayed.  God reminded us this was His adoption and our only job was to be obedient.  There's nothing like a $25,000 adoption staring at you to get your heart rate up.  When we looked at the situation from God's chair, it made our heart rate go back to normal.  Our phrase became, "If it's God will, it's God bill."

We are learning in this process that (1) God provides after we obey, and (2) God confirms after we obey.  We have seen a pattern in these two truths during this adoption.

We got the call from the Adoption Department in Kiev informing us of our interview set for October 10.  It was time to schedule airline tickets, a cost of $2500 per person (one-way).  This caught us by surprise, because the tickets prices had skyrocketed since we last checked.  Then Suzanne remembered a lady she met on the plane coming back from our Ukraine Mission trip in April.  She worked for a ministry that helped people obtain cheap airline tickets for adoption.  We called her and found tickets for $610 per person.  This was a HUGE answer to prayer.  That divine appointment on the plane was a part of the "God's will...God's bill" program.

Other doors begin to spring open.  We received donations from friends and family; free housing for a few days in Kiev; zero-interest loans; and a tax credit that we had no idea existed.  While you're reading  this, there are people from our church and beyond coming together to provide needs on many levels.  Everyday people are contributing to our adoption online (click HERE to donate).  The more we walk in obedience, the more God provides.

It was time to obey.  Time to walk in faith.  We packed our bags and made final preparations at home and at church for our departure.  Saying goodbye to our kids for a six-week adoption adventure was one of the hardest things we have ever done.  (Click HERE to read about it).

After several hours of travel, we landed in Kiev.  We stayed at Hospitality House for the first few days. On Sunday we attended worship at International Christian Assembly, followed by lunch at the pastor's house.  These new friends will be future partners in ministry.  We prayed that evening for clear direction from the Lord during our interview the next day.

The interview consisted of us answering questions from an Adoption Department representative.  We passed that first test and were shown pictures in a binder.  We were only able to see pictures of children of the ages in which we qualified.  We started looking for our "Marion" in a binder full of little orphan girls, all of which were severely handicapped.  Those precious children tugged on our hearts.  God calls many people to adopt those children, but God made it clear we were not called to adopt a handicapped child.

After looking at several pictures our choices were vanishing.  We began to wonder, "Did we do the right thing?"  There were few children that fit the criteria of our approved adoption status.  Then we realized what was happening.  God was making it clear by removing the options.  He was doing it before our very eyes.  It was like being on the set of a God reality TV show.  There was one final folder left on the table.  It contained pictures of three precious children, all within our criteria.  We accepted the folder and made plane reservations for the southern part of Ukraine near the Black Sea.

In the meantime, two brothers and a sister were playing in an orphanage outside a small village.  Their playground friends saw more smiling, skipping and singing that day.  For little did they know their life story was about to change.  

(Come back to our blog for "The Tapestry of God: The Story of Lawson, Marion and Lincoln")

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Tapestry of God: Part Two

Through this adoption, we are able to trace God's tapestry and the beautiful picture being created.  The overlapping pieces of our story is amazing.  We are speechless at the love, provision and hope of God.

An image of hope was forming for our new little one as we talked about adoption with Cris and Karen Mahy, founders of Mercy's Hope.  This ministry helps orphans in Ukraine through shoebox blessings for the children, winter coats and a summer camp.  (  This ministry does not assist with adoption.  However, we received much insight from the Mahy's.  Cris and Karen adopted a girl about six years ago.  Through that process, Mercy's Hope was born.

We felt the Lord wanted to make this adoption not about us, but something bigger.  He wanted more people to be impacted and educated.  We started praying about bringing a team on a mission trip to Ukraine to minister to orphans and widows through Mercy's Hope.  This would be a true James 1:27 kind of trip.  So we started watching where God was working.

Soon after we began praying, Frank mentioned to a friend about going to Ukraine.  They said they wanted to go, and before the conversation was over we had money for plane tickets for an entire mission trip team.  More people caught the vision, and we received more funds and support.  Our adoption was growing into something bigger.  Our church family jumped on board and gave money to feed the widows.  Praise the Lord.

Our Ukraine mission team arrived in early April 2011.  We passed out boxes individually packed for children in orphanages around the city of Zolty Vody, Ukraine.  We shared the Gospel to schools and delivered over 300 bags of food to widows.  Some of our team taught in the local Bible College.  It made a huge impact on the team.  A couple from the team even went back this past summer to help with the summer camp.  It was happening just like God planned.  It was not completely about us bringing home a child, but about about refueling the engines of mission within people all around us.

While on the mission trip we met some amazing people getting their hands dirty in ministry.  We were inspired with the way pastors were doing ministry.  It was like walking into an Acts first-century church.  Some of the members would walk for almost two hours just to get to church.  We were embarrassed with our lack of passion for God's Word.  These wonderful people became close friends, friends who are reading this blog with you.

We wanted to come back to this region for our adoption so we could do ministry with our new friends.  We decided to petition for a little girl from one of the orphanages.  We had some extra time on our last day in Ukraine and decided to take one more trip to the orphanage that housed this precious girl.  When we arrived we found out her little brother (which no one knew about) had just arrived to the orphanage.  It was his first day.  We looked at each other and were like, "Alright, maybe this is not the right child".  We were not thinking of two children...until we got back home.

Back at home the adoption process was speeding up.  Deadlines were upon us.  We felt we needed to bring these two children home.  Then we received word that there was another sibling, an infant girl.  Was God calling us to three?  This was getting out of hand.  Really God?

We adjusted our paperwork to include up to three children.  We sent a petition to the adoption department in Ukraine for these children in Zotly Vody.  If God wanted us to have three children, then He would let this work out.

After a lot of paperwork and extra meetings, we received word these three children were not available.  We were disappointed, but relieved that God was not asking us to adopt three children.

Or was He?

(Come back to our blog for The Tapestry of God: Part Three)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Quick Update from Ukraine

Hello friends & family.  Thought we would share a quick update on our adoption process.

After going through the interview with the adoption department, we received a referral for a sibling group of three.  We are down in Simferopol near the Black Sea.  It's beautiful down here.  We are visiting the kids daily playing games and building relationships.  We cannot tell you too much information about the children at this time.  However we can tell you that they are healthy, lovely children who will fit very nice in our family and home.  The children include a boy (age 7), a girl (age 6) and a boy (age 4).

There are so many stories developing through this process that can only be attributed to your prayers.  We will update the blog with more detailed information tomorrow.

Thanks so much.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Tapestry of God: Part One

A tapestry is an ornamental fabric entwined together often in the shape of a picture.  This best describes what God is doing in the process of our adoption.  Every day as the tapestry grows, we are able to trace God's craftsmanship and the beautiful picture being created.  The overlapping pieces of our story is very cool to see.

It all started when God was speaking to us about adoption.  Suzanne read a book called Fields of the Fatherless.  At the same time, Frank was being challenged by the book of James.  Especially James 1:27 which says, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."  God was working within us to go beyond our current spiritual walk.

God does this in a variety of ways.  For example, he calls people to reach farther in their faith by giving more; or surrendering to the call to teach that small group; or to memorize hundreds of scripture.  In our case, it was to rescue a child from the bondage of despair and loneliness.  We had to ask ourselves, "So where do we start?"

We started on a spiritual journey that included prayer and Bible study.  We wanted to experience God in a whole new way.  We felt led to take our family through the Experiencing God study by Henry Blackaby.  There are a few versions of this study for our entire family.  Besides the workbook for adults, there is a teen book for Madison and pre-teen books for Landon and Logan.  Every Sunday night our family discussed what we learned throughout the week.  That study prepared us for what was about to happen.  We started watching to see where God was working.  That involved looking at the God-connections in our life.  

Back in 1990, Frank went to the Soviet Union on a mission trip with a team of twelve college men from various universities in Louisiana.  He was able to work alongside Christians in that country to prepare a church building as a meeting space.  The passion for God evident in the people was unlike anything Frank had seen.  Since that trip, there has been a longing in Frank's heart for the people in that region.  So we began to pray for Russia.

While praying for Russia, we came across an amazing fact.  About 90% of orphan girls in this part of the world who are not adopted either end up in prostitution or commit suicide.  What a tragedy.  Upon hearing this, we sensed the Holy Spirit screaming, "Rescue one of these girls."  Our prayers became more specific.  As we were praying for this little girl somewhere in the world, the name Marion kept coming into our spirit.  We don't know if our future adopted girl will be Marion, but it gave us "someone" to pray for.  We even had a Christmas stocking with her name stitched to match the others hanging from the fireplace.  Crazy, huh?  When God puts a burden on your heart, you begin to notice  unconventional behaviors in your life.

Our great friends, Jason and Molly Gann, told us of a cousin who ministers to orphans in Ukraine.  We felt God was calling us to Russia, not Ukraine.  After all, God placed a burden on Frank for the people of Russia.  But we soon realized that (a) God was showing us where He was working, and (b) back in 1990 Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union.

We met with the Gann's cousin to talk and pray about Ukraine.  After our meeting with Cris and Karen Mahy, we knew God was calling us to Ukraine.  Our adoption journey jumped to a higher gear and the tapestry began to from an image.  An image of hope with the ministry of Mercy's Hope.

[Come back to our blog for The Tapestry of God: Part Two]

Friday, October 7, 2011

Saying Goodbye

Saying goodbye has been difficult in the Bennett home this week.  We all knew it was coming.  But yet did not want to talk about it.  Here is what I'm feeling:

1 - I now have a small taste of what our military men and women experience when they say goodbye to their children, not knowing when they will see them again.

2 - I know beyond a shadow of a doubt God called us to rescue a child (or children) from despair.  But I now understand the cost we and our children are about to pay.

3 - The feeling of separation from our amazing kids in order to bring home another child gives us a glimpse of the separation God and Jesus experienced when He came into this world to redeem us.

4 - I treasured every moment I could with our kids these past few days.  This needs to become habit when we return.

5 - Madison, Landon and Logan are the best kids any parent can have.  I know, I'm biased.  But those who know our kids know what I'm talking about.  I am blessed beyond what I can measure.

Now if you would excuse me, I'm going to crawl into a twin bed with my little seven-year old.