was successfully added to your cart.

Basket

All Posts By

Brittany Stillwell

A Wild Ride-An Adoption Story

By | Uncategorised | No Comments

Names and identifying details in this story have been changed to maintain anonymity.

Ask any of them and they will all say; their favourite memory is going to Gold Reef City (an amusement park in Johannesburg). It’s hard to get eleven people to agree on anything, but this was unanimous. Four adults and seven kids piled into two cars, for a day of wild rides, junk food, sunshine, laughter. They set out in hopes of an adventure and came back sweaty, tired, and grinning with a memory they’ll never forget.

But this was no ordinary outing among friends. This day…this whole month, was special. Jack and Sam were visiting the country of their birth for the first time.

Jack and Sam are brothers who grew up as part of the Door of Hope family. At ages one and three they were adopted into a loving family and moved overseas. This March they had the opportunity to return to their birthplace and spend time with the family who loved and cared for them for a year of their young lives.

The story begins, however, long before Gold Reef City, and long before Jack and Sam’s adoption. It starts with two couples with similar stories on different sides of the world, listening to God’s call.

Mark and Anne were married in 2004 with dreams of a big family. They were already connected to Door of Hope with two children of their own, when Anne stumbled across a problem to be solved. Circumstances and a two-year age difference made it difficult for Jack and Sam to remain together at Door of Hope. Anne brought the problem home to her husband Mark and with some prayer and discernment, what started as a problem quickly transformed into an incredible opportunity. Anne and Mark would foster Jack and Sam until they were adopted.

Cynthia and Clark were also married in 2004 and they, too, had dreams of a family. They, however, would not learn about Door of Hope until 2011, after three and a half years of struggling with infertility and a two-year adoption process.

Cynthia still remembers the day she got the call from the adoption agency. She was at work when the phone rang. She quickly stepped out of a meeting and found a quiet corner. “Do you have a paper and pen?” the social worker asked. “You’ve been matched with a boy… and another boy.” Cynthia still has the paper where she scrawled, in big shaky letters, the details of the adoption. Two weeks later they were on a plane to Johannesburg to collect not one, but two sons!

Anne and Mark got a similar call the same day. Jack and Sam had been matched, it was time to start preparing them to go home on an airplane with their new Mommy and Daddy. “Their adoption day was God-ordained,” Anne reflected. “I tried to prepare them for a younger energetic, bouncy boy who didn’t like to be held, and a timid, reserved boy who may not attach immediately. But the opposite happened. Sam went right up to his mom, held up his arms, and didn’t want to be put down. And Jack went running straight to his dad and never left his side.” The boys attached to their new parents quickly and Jack was even distraught that he couldn’t leave to go to his new home immediately. This newly united family counted down the three weeks until their flight home on a calendar, marking off each day until they reached the square decorated with an airplane sticker. Jack and Sam adjusted to life in their new family quickly; picking up a new language and settling into a new home with ease.

Because of adoption regulations, several years went by before there was much contact between the two families. Eventually, a Facebook relationship began, and one day a message came for Anne from Cynthia. “We are thinking about coming to visit, could we come visit you?” Soon it was arranged. The whole family would be coming to visit Jack and Sam’s birth country. “We wanted to know a normal day in South Africa,” Clark explained. “We got a rugby ball to take home with us and now we know what a braai is.” For Cynthia it was important for her boys to live normal life with the family who took care of them when they were young. “We could have taken lots of trips, but we chose to spend most of our time here” she stated.

With time, some memories began to come back for Jack. He remembers the birthday he had while in foster care; the present he was given, and the cake Anne made especially for him. Both boys celebrated their birthdays during their trip to South Africa and they participated in the unique birthday traditions of their hosts. Birthdays began with being awoken to singing and celebration by the whole family and ended with the birthday-boy’s favorite dinner, cake, ice cream and a slideshow of pictures from their time in foster care. These were precious moments for Mark and Anne as they got to share with these boys, for the first time, images of their time together.

Jack and Sam went hiking in the Drakensberg Mountains, explored Durban, and went on a safari in Pilanesberg, but when asked about their favorite moment there was no hesitation. Spending the day with the whole family at Gold Reef City was definitely the highlight. It was a wild ride that brought these two families together; an incredible adventure they will never forget.

Now

By | Uncategorised | No Comments
This reflection was written for one of our supporting churches, Second Baptist Church in Memphis, TN. It was published as part of their Lenten devotional book, Into the Wild: Reflections for Lent.

O Lord, I have heard of your renown,
    and I stand in awe, O Lord, of your work.
In our own time revive it;
    in our own time make it known;
    in wrath may you remember mercy.
God came from Teman,
    the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah
His glory covered the heavens,
    and the earth was full of his praise.
The brightness was like the sun;
    rays came forth from his hand,
    where his power lay hidden.
Before him went pestilence,
    and plague followed close behind.
He stopped and shook the earth;
    he looked and made the nations tremble.
The eternal mountains were shattered;
    along his ancient pathways
    the everlasting hills sank low.
I saw the tents of Cushan under affliction;
    the tent-curtains of the land of Midian trembled.
Was your wrath against the rivers, O Lord?
    Or your anger against the rivers,
    or your rage against the sea,
when you drove your horses,
    your chariots to victory?
You brandished your naked bow,
    sated were the arrows at your command. Selah
    You split the earth with rivers.
The mountains saw you, and writhed;
    a torrent of water swept by;
the deep gave forth its voice.
    The sun raised high its hands;
the moon stood still in its exalted place,
    at the light of your arrows speeding by,
    at the gleam of your flashing spear.
In fury you trod the earth,
    in anger you trampled nations.
You came forth to save your people,
    to save your anointed.
You crushed the head of the wicked house,
    laying it bare from foundation to roof. Selah
You pierced with their own arrows the head of his warriors,
    who came like a whirlwind to scatter us,
    gloating as if ready to devour the poor who were in hiding.
You trampled the sea with your horses,
    churning the mighty waters.

-Habakuk 3:2-15 (New Revised Standard Version)

I recently moved from Memphis to South Africa to serve as a staff volunteer with Door of Hope. Within just a few days of arriving, the COO, David Allen, attempted to teach me the different definitions of the word “now.” In South Africa, now doesn’t mean right this second. In fact, that word doesn’t contain a sense of urgency at all. If you agree to get something done “just now” you are offering tackle it at some point when you get a chance. Need something a little sooner? Try the phrase “now-now.” It’s quicker than “just now” but actually means, “I’ll do that when I’m done with what I’m doing.” And what if you need something done immediately? There’s no now-word for that. Pick another phrase and hope for the best.  I had been warned that time works differently in Africa and this vocabulary lesson was proof that I have a lot to learn about keeping time.

I wonder if the prophet, Habakkuk, is also struggling to keep time. In chapter 2 Habakkuk has taken a look at the world around him and made a long list of the brokenness he sees. Redemption is needed…now! In chapter 3 he urges God, “I have heard of your renown and I stand in awe, O Lord, of your work. In our own time revive it, in our own time make it known.” Or as I imagine it, “I’ve heard of your awesome work. Can you do this again now-now or perhaps even right now? In fact, let’s forget the ‘nows’ altogether. Do this on my time please.”

I can identify with Habakkuk’s plea. Already I sense the urgency in the work being done here, at Door of Hope. There are toddlers who are getting older and need a space at the Play and Learn Center…now. There are permits that need to be obtained now so that building can continue at the Village. And there are currently 76 children in our care in need of forever families…now. It could be easy to get distracted and discouraged by all that needs to be done now, and yet somehow, every day, I am amazed at the patience and persistence displayed here. The Door of Hope family doesn’t get derailed by the not yet. They are hard at work tending to the present moment, caring for children in need of compassion, all the while praying, with Habakkuk, for God’s now to be revealed.

I wonder if we can learn a new way of keeping time from these prophets in our midst. May we all learn to pray with urgency like Habakkuk and the Psalmist, but may we never lose sight of the way God is at work in the ‘now,’ persistently making a way when there seems to be none.

The Lord answer you in the day of trouble! May God grant you your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your plans. May the Lord fulfill all your petitions now, now-now, just now, and in the days ahead. Amen. (based on Psalm 20:1, 4-5)

Rezoning FAQ’s

By | General News | 2 Comments

At Door of Hope one of our repeated prayer requests is for the rezoning process at the Village. Chances are many of you know exactly what that means and can pray for the specific effects rezoning has on our building plans at the Village. But there may be a few of you who, like me, smile and nod when you hear the word rezoning, offering prayers that go something like: “God, I have no idea why this rezoning is such a big deal, but you do. Could you handle that please?”

If this is your prayer and you want to know more about what you are praying for, maybe this will help.

What is rezoning?
Certain parcels of land are zoned for specific purposes. If you want to use the land for a purpose other than the one for which it is zoned, you must go through a rezoning process to get permission.

What does rezoning entail?
Rezoning requires the completion of several assessment reports, such as an environmental impact assessment, traffic assessments, site development plans, and a whole lot more. These reports are conducted by various specialists and officials and need to be approved by several different governmental departments. They can often be quite subjective.

What does this mean for Door of Hope Village?
The landpurchased for Door of Hope Village is zoned as agricultural property. In order to see the vision for the village come to fruition, this land has to be rezoned from agricultural to institutional. Rezoning is a lengthy process with a lot of moving pieces and so, with permission, we began building according to agricultural zoning guidelines while the rezoning process was underway. We have recently been informed, however, that we shouldn’t necessarily have been given permission and our ability to continue doing construction at the village has been delayed.

How can I pray?
Please pray that our rezoning application is completed and granted quickly. Pray that those who are completing these assessments and reports will be able to see the hope and vision of the village and will do everything they can to help us make this dream a reality. Pray that these reports come back with as little impact as possible and that we will be cleared to begin building soon. Pray that those of us here at Door of Hope Village will not get discouraged and will persevere as we seek to be faithful to God’s call.

How can I help?
Consider making a donation to Door of Hope. This process is quite expensive, and we are relying on the generosity of our donors to help make this dream a reality. You can give online by clicking here.

Also, consider bringing a group to volunteer at the village. There is much to be done as we continue in our efforts to develop this land into a safe place for God’s children. For more information, email teams@doorofhope.co.za

But most importantly, please join us in prayer:

Lord, God of heaven,
You have given us this land and charged us to build a village for your children. Stir our spirits and move in our hearts that we might be inspired to join in your work at Door of Hope Village.

Jesus, Ruler of all,
The process has been stalled by the rezoning process and at times we feel frustrated and discouraged. But we know that you reign over all things and so we ask you to intervene so that we might begin building again.

Spirit of the Living God,
Move in the hearts of the specialists and officials as they make decisions about our property. Inspire them to act with urgency and to do everything they can to help make this process move smoothly and quickly. Grant our staff courage and persistence as we seek to remain faithful to your call.

Father, Son, & Spirit, Great Three-In-One,
May all this be accomplished so that your name will be glorified in all the earth. Amen.

“Do Lord, oh do Lord, oh do remember me”

By | Uncategorised | No Comments

Tom and Barbara had no idea what they were getting themselves into. All they knew was that one of the pastors at their church had been dropping hints about going on an international mission trip to Door of Hope in South Africa for quite a while. Eventually, these hints transformed into a call from God and they signed up to travel with a team affiliated with the North Caroline Baptists on Mission. They arrived at Door of Hope in February on their first international mission trip—their first but probably not their last.

The work was harder than they expected, work made all the more difficult by an unusually rainy week, forcing this determined team to build a retaining wall in the rain and the mud. The rain, however, is not what they talked about when I asked them to share about their experience. Tom was quick to tell me he had no regrets in choosing to come on this trip. When I asked what he would share with someone who might consider coming to volunteer at Door of Hope Village, he responded, “It’s hard work, but it is so worthwhile. You’ll come back with so much more than what you’ve given.”

Tom and Barbara spent most of their two weeks in South Africa building a retaining wall out of cement blocks and laying concrete for a walkway outside the “Play and Learn Centre.” When the rain became too heavy to work in, the team moved inside the hall, sorting and rearranging donations to provide easier access to the items inside. Of course, their time in South Africa was not all work. The team enjoyed visiting the Lion and Safari Park and explored an outdoor market. They also attended worship at Berea Baptist Mission (where Door of Hope began) and toured two of the three baby houses, learning more about Door of Hope’s mission to save abandoned babies.

Barbara reflected on her experience seeing the baby box for the first time. “I’d heard about children being abandoned in a box,” she said, “but until you see it, you can’t grasp it.” She told me that her initial encounter with the box broke her heart, but she didn’t feel that way for long. One look in the children’s eyes and she realised how much life they have. She saw the way the aunties cared for the children and reflected, “This isn’t an orphanage. This is a home.”

Tom shared that the highlight of his trip didn’t come at the baby houses as it did for most of the team. For him, it was when he saw the toddlers playing at the “Play and Learn Centre” in the village. Tom’s heart was moved when he saw these happy, healthy children who, not long ago, were babies much like the ones he saw at the baby houses. The children at Door of Hope have the opportunity to grow and learn in a loving and safe environment. “They are getting a chance at life that they wouldn’t have gotten were it not for Door of Hope” he reflected.

As our conversation came to a close, I asked if there were any other meaningful moments that they wanted to share. Barbara told me a story. “A few days ago,” she began, “My daughter-in-law sent me a video of my five-year-old grandson singing the children’s song ‘Do Lord.’ And then I came out here and heard the kids singing the very same thing. Here my grandson was in a big formal church singing, ‘Do Lord, oh do Lord, oh do remember me’ with special hand motions. And the kids here were doing the exact same thing, hand motions and all. It fills you with hope.” Barbara ended our conversation by reflecting, with confidence, “This couldn’t take place if God wasn’t in it. This is an amazing mission that is taking place and we know God is behind it.”

Lord, we know that you never forget your children. We know that every child matters to you, but we are a forgetful people. As we sing with your youngest children, may we be reminded of a God who never forgets, and may we be inspired to join in your active work of remembering. Amen.