Friday, January 28, 2011

Black and White

"Mrs. Seely?" A quiet voice broke my concentration as I scanned the ingredients of a tomato soup package in the natural foods aisle. I glanced up, wondering who would be calling me by that name here. Standing a few feet away, a beautiful young lady dressed in the store uniform smiled nervously. I returned her smile, but there was no recognition in it. I have been teaching for seventeen years. The students I taught in the earlier years of my career have now grown up. Their sweet little faces, which are the only faces I remember them by, have evolved into adult faces. On this day, my mind was frantically scrolling through my memory log, clumsily tripping over facts, faces, and figures in a desperate attempt to match this adult face before me with an appropriate name. "Do you remember me?" she smiled hesitantly. Reluctant to admit the truth, I cheated and glanced down at her name tag. A-hah!

We chatted pleasantly for a few minutes, catching up on the years that had passed, her family, and where others from her class were now. She gave me a hug before returning to her duties and promised to keep in touch. My smile lingered awhile as I resumed shopping and began reminiscing.


She was a skinny, awkward, nine year-old when I taught her, but her smile could light up a room. Still at the age when kids love their teachers, she often presented me with crayon masterpieces and sweetly penciled notes and hugs. A naturally happy child, her brown eyes twinkled and her whole face sparkled, even when working out those dreaded long division problems or fractions. But the day she cried at school still stands out in my memory.

The words of children are often unkind and thoughtless. But the words on this particular day stung horribly. A few children had begun to mock her darker skin color and she sought me out in tears. Sobs shook her thin shoulders as she poured out her hurt to me. "I don't like the color of my skin!"

Trying to console her, I opened my mouth to tell her how beautiful her skin was and how special God made her and ... But the words never came. It was almost as if, Jesus slipped His hand across my lips to stop my speech. Instead He whispered into my ear, "Remember?"

Suddenly, I was once again a skinny, awkward, white-skinned nine-year-old girl. I heard the voices laughing at my extremely fair complexion. The words, "Stand her against a white wall and she'll disappear!" came ringing back to me. The frustration of never being able to tan like the other kids filled my heart once again. It was mean. It was cruel. It was unfair.

I looked into her tear-filled eyes once again. But instead of delivering my pre-programmed speech, I simply said, "I understand how you feel. I didn't always like my skin-color either." "You?!" she asked incredulously? I smiled, put my arm around her, and led her to a nearby bench to share with her my story.

The next day, my sweet student bounced off the school bus and greeted me on the playground. "Mrs. Seely," she bubbled, "Thanks for talking with me yesterday. I think I'm going to like my skin color from now on." And with that she was off to join the other kids at recess. I smiled to myself as I watched the living portrait of children before me painted in varying shades of skin-color. "Thank You, Lord," I prayed, "for blessing us by making us different!"

P.S. I also had a talk with those kids who had teased her. It was a learning day for all of us.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Orphan No More

Reece's Rainbow makes the sweetest little buttons for families who are trying to adopt special needs kids from around the world. I can't support all the adoptions, but I do try to "adopt" one family at a time to donate towards and advertise for.

Today, it gives me great pleasure to announce that this little princess is safely home.

Grab This!

Blessings to you, little Olivia! May God bless you and guide you as you grow.

And now I'd like to introduce my new family - The McLains!

The following is their profile from Reece's Rainbow...

When Joy heard about a lovely little girl from Eastern Europe who had a very limited amount of time to find a family, her ears and her heart perked up. She had inquired about that same sweetheart and her country's program weeks earlier but at that time another family was pursuing her adoption. Now the first TWO families committed to her had backed out and pretty Abby's file was just days from being returned. What a shame if a little girl with so much potential and with special needs that seemed so manageable would forever miss out on the opportunity for a family of her own. Kevin, however, repeatedly voiced his legitimate concerns about job security on which hinged the money necessary to complete a third international adoption. But God was at work. Over the following weekend Kevin had to prepare a Bible study for their church's men's group about David and Abigail — a godly woman whose name meant "God is my source" and to present a children's church lesson about a little orphan girl who needed food and clothes!! Early on Monday morning Joy and Kevin made the joint decision to adopt.

Abby is 8 1/2 and will fit nicely between older brothers and sisters ages 15, 14, 13, 11–each adopted domestically– and two younger brothers ages 5 and 6 with Down syndrome adopted from Ukraine in 2008 and 2009 through Reece's Rainbow. Kevin drives truck for UPS Freight and Joy is a stay-at-home Mom though trained as a registered nurse. The scripture that keeps coming to Joy regarding this adoption is Isaiah 54: "Sing, barren woman, who has never had a baby. Fill the air with song, you who've never experienced childbirth! You're ending up with far more children than all those childbearing woman . . . . All your sons will be taught by the LORD, and great will be your children's peace. . . "

You can follow their adoption blog here.

To donate towards her adoption, go here.

Let's bring another princess home!

Monday, January 17, 2011

I'll Be Back, Part 3 and Surprise Announcement

The year was 1994 and we were in Estonia. It had been 50 years since my father's feet had last touched Estonian soil. It was homecoming for him. For us, it was an introduction to the land we had heard about all our lives.

For fifty years Estonia seemed to sit in a time capsule. Not much had changed. My dad could still identify the homes he had lived in and the familiar landmarks of his childhood. We zigzagged our way through birch forests while the stories replayed themselves in my mind.


Photo by Otto de Voogd

One sunny day, we visited my grandfather's grave. He was buried, appropriately enough, outside one of the first Christian churches erected in Estonia in the 15th century, Saha Chapel. How I wished I could speak to him and tell him what an impact his life, and death, had made on my life. My sister and I made a rubbing of his headstone. To touch his name was the only contact we could have with our grandfather this side of Heaven.

But, someday, when Jesus returns and calls out those who have died believing in Him, my grandfather will rise from his dusty grave. He will meet the Lord in the air, enter that Heavenly City, and live forever with the God he loved and served. I want to be there too.

"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words." I Thessalonians 4:16-18.

Later that week we attended the church where my grandfather had served as pastor. I was saddened to see how small it had become. I had seen prewar pictures showing a thriving, growing church. Now it was only a handful of believers. The Communist occupation had worked hard to stamp out religion of any kind and was, unfortunately, highly successful in its tactics.

One lady smiled as we entered. She had known my grandparents, attended my grandfather's funeral, and stayed faithful to God during the difficult years of occupation. She knew who we were and greeted us as though we were long lost friends.

Sometime after the sermon ended, a man entered. He reeked of alcohol and tobacco. "I heard that relatives of August Holmstrom were here." He said in Estonian. My dad rose to speak with him. This man had been baptized by my grandfather, but the years of occupation had turned his heart from following God. "Come back to Him now," my dad encouraged. "No, now it's too late," the man shook his head sadly.

On our last day in Estonia we wandered the cobbled streets of old town Tallinn. The red tiled roofs and stone walls preserve its Medieval look and I had to wonder how many people in this city knew Jesus. With the Communist occupation ending, would the people return to God or run after western materialism? Would the baton my grandfather dropped be picked up and carried again now that freedom had come? What could I do? Somewhere, deep inside my heart, I knew I would be back.

In the years since that visit, I have returned to those thoughts often, continually asking myself, "What can I do for the people of Estonia?"

When we felt that God was calling us to adopt internationally we began to talk about which of the various countries we should adopt from. Estonia jumped to the top of the list rather rapidly. We have contacted an agency that handles Estonian adoptions and are half-way through reading the material sent to us. We have started a special savings account and are adding a chip-in bar to this blog for those who would like to help out. I may not be able to share God's love with an entire country, but, with God's help, I may be able to shower His love on a few of its orphan children.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

I'll Be Back, Part 2


Gunshots rang out through the cool forest air and two lifeless bodies dropped into the shallow graves they had been forced to dig for themselves. One of them was my grandfather. He was 44.

Throughout my life, I've thought a lot about those final, terrible moments my grandfather faced. Had he somehow known his end was coming? Is that why he had pleaded with my grandmother to pray with him? What were his last thoughts?

There's one verse I keep coming back to. It is found in Revelation 14:13, "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord ... that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them." The last part, "and their works do follow them," especially speaks to me. When my grandfather was murdered, his work of spreading the gospel did not end. Like a baton in a relay race, my grandfather's work was passed on to another runner, someone who would work to share the gospel he loved with others. My burning question has always been, did someone pick up that baton?! Is the gospel message being shared?

By 1944, as the Nazi's began leaving Estonia, my grandmother realized Estonia would indeed fall to the Communists. Panicked Estonians began fleeing the country by the thousands. Several of grandmother's escape attempts fell through. Somehow, she befriended some Nazi soldiers who agreed to allow her to leave with their convoy. At the age of 41, grandmother, bringing only the belongings she could carry, climbed atop war machinery packed into the bed of a Nazi truck. Her two frightened children scrambled up after her. Covered by the blackness of night, the convoy lurched forward towards Germany and the unknown.

To be continued ...

I'll Be Back, Part 1

My fifth grade teacher glowered at me as she sternly slapped my paper down on my desk. "The assignment was supposed to be a true story about your family's history, not a made-up story." Never one to argue with my teacher, but genuinely confused, I stammered, "But this is the history of my family." "No," she snapped, "You wrote about your father escaping with Nazi soldiers from a country called Estonia. There isn't even a country named Estonia." Shocked at the disagreement between the teacher and me, a normally quiet, shy girl who never got into trouble, the class looked on in silence. "Yes, there is." I responded. Pointing to the map at the front of the class, my teacher challenged me to find it. It took me all of ten seconds to point out the tiny Baltic country. Genuinely surprised, my teacher apologized.

From a very early age, my father had repeatedly directed my tiny finger at a map and pointed out the country, his country, from which he had been forced to flee. My ears had heard the stories of my grandfather's murder, my grandmother's courage, and the unfailing guidance of a loving Heavenly Father who led them step by step to America. At my father's knee, my heart had embraced a country I had never seen, but, somehow knew I was connected to - Estonia.


My father standing between his father and pregnant mother in Estonia.

The year was 1942. Russian armies were again invading Estonia. In typical fashion, they attempted to eliminate the leaders of society first. Lists were posted in public places giving the names of politicians, teachers, ministers, and other prominent figures who were to be shipped out of the country to labor camps. One dreadful day, my grandfather's name appeared on the list.

My grandfather was a minister. At a time when there were no computers or quick modes of transportation, he worked hard to spread the gospel. Often he used his bicycle to travel from one town to another, sometimes even using it as a bridge to cross icy rivers by laying it down between ice patches or boulders and crawling across. He loved God and it was his desire to share that love with as many as he could.

But 1942 was a dangerous year. World War II was in full force and my grandfather's life was in danger. He was not the only one. Two other men in his church were also scheduled to be deported. Backed by the support of his congregation, they decided to go into hiding.

The forests in Estonia are thick with birch trees. Beautiful to behold during peacetime, they resembled cold prison bars during wartime. Various church members rotated the duty of secreting food and supplies to the hiding men, changing routes each time to avoid detection. At that time one never knew who was a friend and who would betray you for favors from the Communists.

Deliveries were risky and parcels must be small enough to be concealed beneath clothing or in a handbag. There was little time to visit. A clasped hand, a whispered greeting or prayer, and a smile were all the encouragement time afforded before the visitor disappeared again into the maze of trees.

On several occasions, my grandmother made the delivery. I can only imagine the joy they felt at seeing each other and the intense longing in their hearts for everything to go back to "normal" again. But it was not to be.

On one of her deliveries, my grandfather clasped her hand and begged her to stay with him a little longer. "Pray with me," he pleaded. As she looked into his kind blue eyes now clouded with the loneliness and worry of his exile, she must have noticed how haggard he looked. His handsome, clean-cut face was grizzled and the wrinkle lines more pronounced. The effect of living at the mercy of the elements was evident. "Pray with me, please," he whispered.

Grandma was afraid. Her love for her husband was unshakable. But her love for her children left at home was equally strong. If she stayed too long, she might be discovered and taken or even killed. Then the children would have no parent to care for them. "I can't," she said painfully, "I must get back to the children." He nodded slowly. He understood. Tenderly he released her hand and sadly watched her retreating figure until the trees of the forest blocked his view. It would be the last time they saw each other.

To be continued ...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Forever Family Found


Davids, the young boy we were praying for in Latvia, finally has a forever family--just ten days before his dreaded 16th birthday. You can meet his family here. What a wonderful answer to prayer!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Urgent Prayer Request

Please pray for this young man. His life is in the balance...

Davids' Story: URGENT NEED!!!
Contacts for more information about Davids:
1)LeAnn Dakake (New Horizons for Children)
678-313-8321 cell
dakake (at) mindspring (dot) com
2)Cathy Sawyer (An Open Door Adoption)
3)Barbara L. Lorenzo (Adoption Related Services, Inc.)
717-227-9560 *They have agreed to help anyone in need of home study updates/reviews*

Earlier today I posted "a plea for a boy in Latvia," and later received more information about his story. It is heartbreaking, and he is URGENT need of prayer and adoption!! Please read his story, and PRAY! Below is the message I received:

"Dear Friends and Prayer Warriors:
I have prayed over the last few days about how to share this story, and I have no words to adequately express it. However, it has to be shared and I will do my best. Many who have heard it are so sick over it, our hearts just ache. We know God has a plan; is it you?

In January, 2010, I met an awesome child/young man at an orphanage in Riga , Latvia . His name is Davids. He was one of a few children we were introduced to that day for consideration in our Summer 2010 orphan hosting program. He was really sharp and smart, had a great sense of humor and looked you in the eye when he tried to speak the good amount of English he had already learned. I remember asking his favorite things to do and he didn’t hesitate to explain he loved kite flying in the sky and dreamed to be a pilot some day! He also enjoys soccer, basketball, swimming and all sports. But, the thing that surprised us most was his age! He was already 15 and effectively the size of a 9 or 10 year old child. We asked the orphanage director more about him later, and were told Davids is healthy, just small and has the kindest, gentlest heart. He generally plays with the younger group of kids because the older ones make fun of him and claim to be “too cool” to hang out with a guy his size. As for history, he has been in 4-5 different orphanages, but has managed to keep hope for a brighter future. He is a sincere and especially child towards younger children. Lego building is one of his hobbies! I remember, he made a joke when I asked him if he liked dogs and cats…a traditional question we ask… He said, “of course! But, I am no cannibal.” And gave us the biggest smile of all! Later, when he was among the group and doing art projects, he drew a picture of a jet airplane landing under a sky that resembled the American flag. When I asked him to explain it, he told me, “My dream to fly airplane and live in family in America !” From that point, he had us at “hello” and we were committed to helping him fulfill his dream.

For the summer program, Davids was hosted by a multi-cultural, multi-racial family and he did awesome! He was kind to his younger host brothers and sister and enjoyed just about everything they did. He especially liked to build and make things and play sports outside, with swimming being one of his favorites! He learned a lot more English and wasn’t shy to use it either. While his host family was not his forever family, our team and staff was so thankful when we received a call from a couple who wanted to go and visit with him before his return to Latvia . We knew time was short, and we encouraged anyone who might be interested, to meet him asap. After one meeting, the family who went, let me know they would be adopting him and how encouraged and inspired they were by Davids. After many discussions, we realized that he needed to know the plan, as his birthday was coming up…his 16th birthday, which means several things to an orphan. First, it means they are about to age out and can’t be considered for adoption. Second, it means that they are on their path of graduating the orphanage and will soon be on their own. Third, it means life as they know it now: food, shelter, protection and security is about over. In the first year after a child leaves the orphanage, generally 15% commit suicide. So, it was decided for me to talk to Davids when our interview returned to Latvia this past August and see how he felt regarding this adoption.

When I sat down with him, I had a translator with me, but he didn’t need her. We sat on a sofa in the social worker’s office and I asked him how he liked America and what he thought? He explained he loved it, and it was more than he ever imagined! I asked him if he remembered this particular man who came to meet him and spent time with him the week before he returned to Latvia , and he said “Oh Yes and we had fun!” I went on and said, “Well, this man told his wife about you and they want me to tell you they are so happy, and they want to adopt you.” Davids’ look was utter shock! He said, “Who, me?” and I confirmed it was indeed him. He said, “Oh yes! VERY VERY much YES! And, they want ME?” He was just the most excited kid I think I ever had the pleasure to tell about an adoption. Most kids are shocked, but usually have to think about it and have several questions to ask before they really accept it and consider it as real. Davids’, on the other hand, was just the happiest kid on the planet that day; his dream was coming true.

Last week, I got an email from his adoptive family… now just 10 days before his 16th birthday,it basically said they felt that they would adopt a girl they met (which was planned all along), but they no longer wanted to adopt Davids’. They had changed their mind. The next day, I got an unsolicited email from Davids’ social worker in Latvia . This is what she wrote:

"Hello Le Ann,
I wish to ask you about one of our boys, his name is Davids T. He was hosted Summer 2010 at a host family in IL. Since he was close to 16, we got information and you shared with him that there is family who will adopt him. It was not the family who hosted him, but another one.
Till this day we never received more information about the adopting family, and we confirmed that the Ministry also has no information yet. I must share, we are all worried and concerned. Davids became so nervous in this last month, his attention to everything is gone. Yesterday he was moved to hospital, because of problems with his stomach relating to the stress of not knowing. We know this all is because he is so close to his 16th birthday; it's on 23 January this year.
We don’t know what to say and can't say anything to Davids because we don't know. It will be a shock for him if it's not true, he has so long lived with this thoughts focused on this adoption and a family in America .
We wish to know the truth to share so he can know and be happy again.”
We have tried to contact his family and explain, show them, what their decision has done to this child. So far, there is no response, but more importantly, there is no time with only a few days that remain for someone to file the I800 with USCIS to adopt Davids’. I have explained to his social worker what the full situation is, and as a strong Christian, she has agreed to pray earnestly with us for a new family to come forward for this child! The adoption agency who was working on this case has agreed to do everything they can to expedite the adoption and assist where possible to get them through the system.
If you or someone you know is interested in moving NOW to adopt Davids’, this is what needs to happen:
1)You must already have an approved home study issued by a Hague Accredited adoption agency in the USA . It must be able to be amended to show you are approved for at least one child, a boy, who is age 16 or under.
2)You must be willing to file with the USCIS the form I800, which will specify Davids’ as the child you intend to adopt, and it must be received prior to January 23, 2011. If done, this gives the adopting family 180 more days to complete the adoption.


Please join us in immediate prayer and action to locate and identify Davids’ Forever Family!!! You are out there somewhere and God knows exactly who you are and He doesn’t make mistakes. We just need to get the word to you about him."
Le Ann Dakake, Director of Hosting Programs, New Horizons for Children 678-313-8321 cell
Cathy Sawyer, An Open Door Adoption: 404-667-0694

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Are You Serious?!

In my last post I mentioned that I was all set to call the adoption agency to begin our next domestic adoption, when suddenly, my husband recommended we wait a bit. I had been all set to plunge ahead and, well, waiting just was not part of MY plan.

Quite reluctantly, I waited. But, I'm a doer and I cannot, absolutely CANNOT, just sit idly and wait for something to happen. I've got to be up to my elbows in something! So, I prayed. I asked for patience, for guidance, for wisdom, for God's will to be shown to us, for a door to open.

Slowly, like the dawning of a new day, we began to feel that God was asking us to walk a different adoption path this time -- international adoption.

Just the thought of it instantly made my stomach flip-flop, palms sweat, and knees go wobbly. International adoption was something I had always dreamed of doing ... someday. Because someday, we would be filthy rich and fly to some exotic country in a private jet or something... But now?! To do it now would require ... gasp! ... faith!


God is asking us to hold His hand and trust Him on a journey that promises to take us into the depths of the unknown. We've never traveled this road before. We don't know what the outcome will be. We can only trust that God will walk with us each. step. of. the. way.

I close my eyes ...
take a deep breath...
and whisper (because I am scared)

"Yes, Lord. I'm willing."

Friday, January 7, 2011


I had it all planned. Our adoption agency required that we wait one year until we adopt through them again. That year ended this month. As soon as the office opened its doors after the holidays, I would call and request to start the adoption process again (via foster care as our last three adoptions have been). We would get two boys to add to our family. It would be perfect! And then ...

My husband just informed me that he doesn't want me to make the call. just. yet.


I've been counting down the months, the days, the hours. My fingers have been literally aching to pick up the phone and make that call. My heart is more than ready for a new addition to our family. And now...?

I have learned enough about walking with God to know that His ways are not my ways. But somehow, the more emotional human side of me kind of went into a lurch, like when you are running towards the end zone and someone yells at you to freeze. My brain is doing a double-take, trying to adjust to the command to stall when all systems had been set to "GO!" And then ...

This morning I stumbled across some pictures of orphan boys in China on someone's blog. Is this...? Could this be...? Are we being redirected...?

We've never done an overseas adoption before. We aren't rich. Sigh ...

We need to pray!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Love Burst

Max Lucado refers to it as a "love burst." Out of the blue, an overpowering feeling of love washes over you, forcing you to stop and be thankful.

Yesterday, I took my daughter and our two Korean kids (former foreign exchange students returning for the holidays) ice skating. No sooner had they made their first loop around the rink when I was hit out of nowhere with a sudden love burst. The world stopped. Tears leapt to my eyes. I was filled with gratitude for the opportunity I had been given to raise my daughter.

As I watched her graceful form glide across the ice, I remembered her little feet toddling across my carpet for the first time. Her smile, so bright and confident now, was bewildered and sad on that fateful day when she was dropped into my home. We do not have a perfect mother-daughter relationship, but our bond is strong and she has been surrounded by security and love for as long as she has been with me. Not only my daughter, she is also my friend.

So there I sat, on the sidelines of a skating rink, reminiscing and covertly wiping away tears. You just never can tell when a love burst will hit you.


JUMPED by Three Teens

Returning home from some errands yesterday evening, I was enveloped by the crisp night air as I stepped out of my SUV. My mind raced with the endless tasks still needing to be completed before I retired for the evening. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a shadowy figure slip behind the tailgate. I stepped away from the car momentarily to investigate, but, seeing nothing suspicious, went back to unloading my purchases.

My arms now filled, I stepped back to shut the door when I felt myself suddenly surrounded by three bodies. The beam of a flashlight blinded me while their blood-curdling yell, matched in intensity by my own hysterical screaming, sent shivers up and down my spine. My blood ran cold as a sense of sheer terror washed over my body.

And then I saw their faces ...

Their insanely grinning, FAMILIAR faces! Three teenagers FROM MY OWN HOUSE had collaborated in a dastardly scheme of scaring me out of my wits!!! My screams melted into peals of laughter as I threatened to keep them on dish-duty for the duration of their stay with us.