Thursday, September 29, 2011

TESTIMONIES OF GOD'S GOODNESS


A JOY to Serve!
It was pure joy for us this weekend-- to be able to meet so many adoptive and foster parents sent to us as gifts from His hand. From the moment people walked in the door of Northlands Church they could sense the embrace of HOPE and the particular love of the Father for them. Many thanks to all who took the time and effort to arrange child care and change schedules (no simple feat!) in order to attend Hope at Home 2011!


We believe that the best fathers and mothers are those who have learned to be a son or daughter of our amazing, gracious, kind and powerful Heavenly Father. Hope at Home 2011 was a time for many to experience anew the transformational touch of their Father, always full of HOPE for every situation we parents face.  


Some TESTIMONIES of God's Goodness:



"Just wanted to thank you all for a wonderful weekend. This was the first time my husband joined me at an adoption conf. so we were truly blessed. Thanks for your time, energy and love for others."

"God has just poured out His love and refreshing on us here! I feel like we have just been embraced and cared for by everyone from this church! We NEEDED this!"

"I have never had support in my 10 year journey. Just hearing and knowing there are others that care was amazing and filled a huge void."



"This weekend was a good reminder that our ONLY hope lies in Him…not in a solid ministry….not in other people….in Him."

"It was so encouraging and refreshing!  Thank you for all your hard work and thank you to your church for being so welcoming and supportive of adoptive parents.  The talks were all excellent, the music was worshipful, the food was good and every little detail down to the printed materials and gifts were so thoughtfully done."


"Thank you for a fabulous refreshing, reviving, envisioning weekend. I can't wait until next year's Hope at Home!!! May the Lord reward you 100 fold for all you invested for His Kingdom!"
"I wanted to write you to tell you how much I enjoyed the Hope at Home conference this weekend.  Adoption conferences can be burdensome….the need is so very great….it can be overwhelming.   But Hope at Home was full of refreshment.  I left encouraged and eager to dig into God's Word to further explore stories or nuggets of truth introduced over the weekend.  To me, that says it all.  To me, that says it all.  If this conference inspires parents to dig deeper into God's Word, you have accomplished much.  Hebrews 6:19 says, "We have this hope as an anchor for our soul, firm and secure."  I think of this verse often and I picture myself tethered to my anchor, Jesus.  The shorter the rope, the less I get thrashed about by the winds and waves of this world.  Being in His Word, keeps me on a shorter rope….it is so very important.  I don't think anyone could walk away from this weekend without desiring to know Jesus more and to dig deep in His Word.  Thank you for all of the time and energy that went into pulling this weekend together.  It was really fantastic."



"We had a wonderful time and left feeling rested! Thank you so much for all your hard work. It was a wonderful event and I cannot wait until next year. The Lord spoke to me over the weekend and gave me new hope for this season of our life. I am so thankful I was able to be still and listen. You all made us feel loved and welcome and to be honest that is what I needed most!"


"There is none like our God Who rides through the heavens to your help." Deuteronomy 33:26

We'd like to thank Laura Means for the wonderful photography! And thank you to Greg Haswell and the Elders at Northlands Church , along with all of the Grace Teams, for serving God's tender love in myriad ways for each Hope at Home 2011 attendee throughout the conference.

We can't wait until next year. We are already dreaming about Hope at Home 2012- Mark your calendars for Sept 21-22, 2012!

In the meantime, LIKE US ON FACEBOOK, for updates and on-going encouragement from Hope at Home.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"As for me, I will always have HOPE."

With HOPE AT HOME 2011 only a few days away you can imagine that we are busy with preparations and lots of prayer. We are filled with a sense of anticipation for what God wants to do in our lives. It's not too late to register for Hope at Home 2011 Conference-- just click HERE. But if you are not able to attend this year, we will let you know soon how you can listen to the awesome speakers online.


I have been thinking about HOPE a lot lately. In one of the first posts on this blog we shared that the hope we refer to is not the hope that the world knows. Not a hope that is dependent on your circumstances, on others' behavior, on our moods, or even on our level of faith at any given moment. It's not the hope of wishful thinking, simply "hoping" that things will work out in the end. True biblical HOPE rather is the confident expectation for good. This hope is available to us as believers in Jesus, for it comes from Him. He, in fact, is our hope! We do not look to the world around us, nor do we look to ourselves, our parenting techniques or even to our faith for this hope. We look to Jesus, and find Hope for every situation. Such wonderful Good News!


It is our desire to release, proclaim and impart this wonderful hope to all who attend Hope at Home 2011. Hope that will transform us and that will position us to see God's goodness in our midst and in our homes.


Enjoy these scriptures, filled with HOPE! 


Romans 15:13
May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing (bubbling over) with hope.


2 Thessalonians 2:16
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.


Psalm 33:18
But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love



Psalm 52:9
For what you have done I will always praise you in the presence of your faithful people. And I will hope in your name, for your name is good.



Psalm 71:14
As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.



Isaiah 40:31
but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.



Romans 4:18
Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed 



Romans 5:5
Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God's love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us.


Hebrews 6:19
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.



Hebrews 10:23
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

Friday, September 16, 2011

SPECIAL NEEDS ADOPTION: ANSWERING SOME QUESTIONS

In this post Teresa Grimes will pose some questions for those considering adopting a special needs child. Her responses that come from experience, both personally and professionally, are both helpful and wise. We encourage you to share this with anyone you know whose hearts are open to receive a special needs child.

Just one more week until HOPE AT HOME 2011! We are really looking forward to seeing you! For more information and to register, click HERE.

As an adoption advocate and caseworker, I am often asked how we personally made the decision to adopt "special needs". This is something that is becoming more common in both international and domestic adoption. I've found that there are some very specific questions one should ask before embarking on this journey.

1.) Are you comfortable talking with doctors and other healthcare professionals? As a parent, you are your child's best advocate. Don't be afraid to ask specific, probing questions of your medical team. It is your choice and responsibility to assemble a team of medical professionals that you feel comfortable with and whom you trust to care for your child. Ask as many questions as you need to get the answers that you require.

2.) Are you flexible and willing to adjust your schedule around your child's special needs? Special needs children will most likely have frequent doctor's visits and scheduled treatments. Sometimes these appointments can be scheduled far in advance and sometimes they are more urgent in nature. How do you handle and respond to the unexpected when it comes to scheduling? Does your lifestyle have room for routine treatments that may be necessary several times per week or per month?

3.) Are you prepared to make difficult decisions that may affect your child's health? One of the things you will face as the parent of a special needs child is that your medical team will provide you with information, but you will be responsible for processing that information and making decisions that affect your child. Many decisions will fall on your shoulders. This is particularly true in situations where treatments may be considered new or experimental.

4.) Can you accept a special need condition that is "medically manageable" rather than "curable"?

5.) Are you committed to connecting with the leading experts on your child's condition, regardless of where they are geographically located?

6.) Are you willing to be an advocate to obtain medical, mental health and school services needed for your child's special needs?

7.) Do you have adquate medical insurance to cover your child's needs? What are the lifetime and annual maximums on your health insurance policy? Are you willing to battle your insurance company on a continual basis to have them cover the things your plan states are covered. You will find that just because yoru insurance plan says the will cover certain procedures and treatments, this does not always mean that claims will be paid on a timely basis or that extensive pre-approvals and pre-authorizations will not be required. You will have to learn to document everything.

8.) If married, will you work as a team and are you both equally committed to special needs parenting? There is an extremely high divorce rate among parents of special needs children. Can both of you accept and love a child who is not considered "normal" by society's standards? How will you respond to the added strain on your family's time and finances. How will you find time for "couple time" and balance the needs of your growing family?
Special needs adoption requires a family to provide their child with permanence and commitment and a secure environment in which to truly experience “family.” Our goal as parents must be to model the Father’s love for us and to reflect His desire to adopt each of us into the family of God.  These are some particular scripture verses that have provided me with strength and comfort.
“Be joyful always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16) –Celebrate victories both big and small.  Keep a sense of humor.  Maintain a spirit of joy and thankfulness.
“For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.” (Colossians 1:16) – It helps to remember that God has a plan for every thing and everyone He creates and that we are all made in His image. 
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16) – Pray continuously for your child, your child’s doctors and caregivers, and for wisdom and direction for yourself as a parent. 

You will meet Teresa and her husband Randy at HOPE AT HOME 2011 Conference for adoptive, foster, and waiting parents. Join us September 23-24!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

SPECIAL NEEDS ADOPTION

Hope at Home is excited to introduce you to the Grimes Family. You may have read their daughter Erica's post and already know something about this wonderful family. Randy and Teresa, parents of six children, four of whom joined their family through adoption, pastor Family by Faith Worship Center north of Atlanta. In this post Teresa shares the story of one of their adoptions and some of the unique realities their son's special needs have introduced into their lives. 


You will meet Teresa and Randy at HOPE AT HOME 2011, September 23-24. They will be speaking more about adoption and parenting the special needs child. Find out more and register HERE.

I knew he was "Our Son."
I knew in my heart he was OUR SON             

In 2007, with four children already in our family and a firm prompting from the Lord to adopt again, I began contacting adoption agencies regarding both domestic and international adoption.  I had done a little research on adopting from Taiwan, but the adoption programs I found did not appear to be a good fit for us.  One morning I awoke with a distinct impression to “revisit Taiwan”.  I went to my computer and instead of “adoption” this time I entered “Taiwan orphanage”.  The search brought up a specific orphanage in Taiwan and a list of their waiting children, all of whom had some form of special needs.  I looked at the pictures and one baby boy immediately captured my attention.  I knew in my heart that he was “our son”.  When my husband came home for dinner that night  I had this baby’s photo sitting on his dinner plate.  My husband said, “What’s this?”  I said, “That’s our new son, and by the way, what is Fabry disease?”  In that moment, our family entered the world of special needs adoption.


Fabry Disease is life 
altering and life threatening
Our son, Jeremiah, was born in Taiwan in August of 2006, four months after the country began a pilot newborn screening program for Fabry disease, an extremely rare genetic disorder.  We just found out this summer that of 110,000 newborns tested in Taiwan, only 45 babies had tested positive for Fabry.  In medical terms, Fabry disease is a lysosomal storage disorder.  In layman’s terms it is like dealing with cholesterol on steroids.  We have all heard of cholesterol and most of us know that cholesterol is a lipid.  The stickiest lipid we have in our blood is a substance known as GL3.  Normally, we have a naturally occurring enzyme in our blood that breaks down GL3 and keeps it from accumulating in our bloodstream and organs.  Those with Fabry disease are missing this enzyme, and therefore GL3 begins to accumulate in the brain, kidneys, heart, lungs, and other organs.  Fabry disease affects essentially every system and organ of the body in ways that researchers are still trying to understand.  Fabry Disease is a life-altering and eventually life-threatening disease.  It is not uncommon for men to die from complications of Fabry as early as the 30s or 40s.  
Yes, we could....
Randy and I immediately began researching Fabry disease as soon as we became aware of Jeremiah waiting in Taiwan.  As we made contacts with those in the Fabry community, we quickly realized that a Center of Excellence for the treatment of this disease was located about 40 miles from our house at the Genetics Department of Emory University.  We made an appointment for a consultation before submitting our final adoption paperwork to Taiwan.  Our first question to the staff was, “We know we can’t cure this, but can we medically manage it?”  We were assured that, yes, we could.  With that word, the decision was final that Jeremiah was meant to be ours.
We have to step out in faith
Since Jeremiah’s arrival home in January 2008 we have taken a very aggressive approach to his treatment.  Our goal is to increase the quality and longevity of Jeremiah’s life.  The treatment for Fabry disease involves intravenous administration of a drug that acts as an artificial enzyme.  This is commonly referred to as enzyme replacement therapy or ERT.   In February of 2009, we had a portacath inserted into Jeremiah’s chest.  Just a few weeks later, Jeremiah had his first infusion of Fabrazyme®, the only drug available in the United States for treatment of Fabry disease.  With this dose, Jeremiah became the youngest known child in the world to be treated with Fabrazyme® and to begin regularly scheduled enzyme replacement therapy for Fabry.  With each decision regarding Jeremiah’s care we have had to step out in faith that we are doing more good than harm.  There is very little information and research on the effects of ERT on a child so young.  We feel like a guinea pig in many ways, but we know the impact of not treating Fabry until after damage has occurred to a patient’s major organs and are determined to take advantage of every medical option that is available to Jeremiah. 
Noah hugs his new brother.

An unexpected bump
We hit an unexpected bump in the road in Jeremiah’s care when major manufacturing issues disrupted the supply of the drug needed for his treatments.   The manufacturing problems resulted in a worldwide shortage of the drug meaning that Jeremiah’s treatments became sporadic and the dosing became inconsistent.  While he was supposed to receive an infusion every two weeks, we once had to go as long as two months between treatments.  Sometimes we would get a full dose, other times a half-dose and occasionally even a one-third dose.  We began to see the impact on Jeremiah’s health, particularly in terms of his fatigue and stamina.  It was frustrating for us because part of the point of starting Jeremiah’s treatments so early was for the medical community to be able to measure the impact of early treatment and intervention on the progression of the disease.
In early 2011 we got some wonderful news.  Jeremiah’s doctors received permission from the Food and Drug Administration to provide him with a new medicine under an emergency access protocol.  The new medicine has been used in Europe but does not have FDA approval for use here in the United States.  At the time Jeremiah began his infusions he was only the 38th child in the world under the age of 18 to be treated with this drug.  As I was signing the releases and authorizations for Jeremiah to be treated with this medicine, it was intimidating and a little scary to think that every child in the world who has received this medicine could fit in one U.S. classroom.  The “chain of custody” controls that are in place each time Jeremiah receives a treatment are about the equivalent of transferring gold out of Fort Knox.
It's just what we do
We are so encouraged by how Jeremiah has responded to the new medicine.  Most days, he has the stamina and energy of a normal four year old boy.  Because of this we are hopeful that he will be able to attend regular school.  Our biggest concern recently has been monitoring his exposure to the Georgia summer heat, as Fabry patients have a very low tolerance for hot weather.  Most Fabry patients will lose their ability to sweat, making them very susceptible to heat exhaustion and heat stroke.  We drive the 40 or so miles to Emory University for treatments every other Tuesday and we are happy to do it.  Traveling that distance can take up to two hours in Atlanta traffic, but we feel blessed that such an excellent, experienced medical facility is nearby.  Jeremiah’s treatment schedule is an adjustment to our family routine and requires a commitment on our part, but we don’t in any way see it as a burden.  It’s just what we do.  Jeremiah is an “old pro” at this point when it comes to actually getting his infusions.  He has been flushing his own port since he was two years old.  He is very attached to his infusion nurse, Trudi, whose consistent care has given Jeremiah a feeling of trust and security.  We consume the latest information regarding Fabry from various medical journals and attend as many patient education programs as we can.  I enjoy picking the brains of other, older Fabry patients who have several years experience fighting this disease.  The insights they share into their own childhood experiences with Fabry have been invaluable to me as a parent.

We've extended the discount registration fee through September 16. Register now for HOPE AT HOME 2011!

Friday, September 9, 2011

HAPPY BAKING

Greg Haswell, pastor of  Northlands Church in Atlanta, Georgia, shares a strengthening message about "the kindest person you will ever know," Jesus. You will hear more from Greg at HOPE AT HOME 2011, September 23-24 in Atlanta, Ga. 
Register now!


Jesus said that His kingdom was like yeast that when mixed into dough permeated the whole batch. That’s an interesting simile. It seems that following Jesus introduces into our lives a vital ingredient that enlarges us, causes us to rise and creates lift.

Matthew 13:33 "He told them still another parable: 'The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.'”


What is this yeast that can so affect our lives? I believe it is the personal acceptance of Jesus and His ministry into our lives. It is the rugged embrace of a relationship with Him. It means that I open my life to Him and welcome His influence. I surrender to Him in the raw unpolished places in my heart and ask Him to make a change. He is the kindest person we will ever meet. His influence in these secret and deep places inside of us has a profound power to restore, heal and invigorate us. Jesus is full of grace and not judgment. He is the most faithful and trustworthy person we can open our lives to. He is able to sympathize even with our weaknesses, because as a man He tasted the pains and struggles that are part of the human condition. The scriptures teach that His understanding has no limit. The yeast of His kingdom is experienced most often as a great sense of cleansing, deep peace and an inexplicable joy. Those of us who have had this yeast mixed into the mundane stuff of our lives are eager for any interaction with Him. His yeast takes root in those hearts surrendered to Him and for those who have experienced it, this yeast is very precious.


What happens in the absence of that vital ingredient? Will there be any lift or enlargement of lives marked by its absence? People without the “yeast” of God’s kingdom in their lives are susceptible to other influences. Jesus warned His disciples about other kinds of yeast.


Mark 13:15 “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.”


The yeast of the “Pharisees” is a system of religion and rules that embrace God in theory but not in practice or experience. Pharisees will expect you to pray but berate you if you expect God to answer your prayers. The yeast they offer to mix into our lives is full of harsh sacrifices and rigid rules. Often laced with a sense of God’s displeasure, they make us feel as though God is at a distance and wants to stay there. Be careful of this kind of yeast. It will leave you condemned, servile and crestfallen.


The yeast of Herod is a philosophy that excludes God altogether. In its atheistic root it celebrates only the strength of people while vehemently denying any divine presence in practical living. Its tenets will cause us to live as “practical atheists”, existing as though there was no loving God who has a perfect plan for us. These self made people will belittle you for any quest for God’s help. This leaven teaches a dependence on man’s effort alone, the ultimate humanistic influence.


Neither the yeast of the Pharisees or of Herod brings lift, enlargement or peace. Rather they become to us a heavy ingredient, making smaller people of us, setting limits for our lives and adding stress.


Yet all the while something inside each person whispers hauntingly of the dream that we human beings are designed for something glorious. The yeast of God’s kingdom and of Jesus the King of the kingdom is the missing ingredient which, when added, does all the heavy lifting. Jesus' yeast slakes the hunger inside of us for eternal meaning and purpose. It is settled in His kingdom.


Decide today to remove bad yeast from your life and to introduce deliberately the yeast Jesus offers. Let Him work through your entire life and in 3 months time you will not recognize who you have become. Happy baking.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

An Adopted Child's Perspective on Adoption: Erica

We are thankful that Erica can share her story with us. Adopted as an infant into a caucasian family, she tells of the beauty and struggles of adoption. Erica is lovely 21 year old senior at Georgia College and State University. She is majoring in Spanish and minoring in Political Science. 



I Forget How Different My Family Looks

Here is my adoption story. I was born two months premature and weighed just over three pounds, making me a special needs adoption. I was fortunate enough that at four months old to be placed in the care of the people I have and always will call my family. Unlike most adopted children, I cannot pinpoint the day I was told I was adopted because for me, I just always knew. However while growing up I never fully grasped the concept of being adopted until I was much older. In elementary school, I was always confused on standardized testing whether or not to put caucasian or Pacific Islander/Asian. I was the only person and always had been the only non-caucasian in my class. I also was the only non-caucasian in my family. Unless kids asked me strange questions like who my real parents were or pointed out how my eyes were different, I never noticed I was different than anybody else. Except for my physical appearance, most people would never realize I was born in a different country. I have no memories before my adoption and I have never felt different from anyone else. Adoption was not a big thing to me until my freshman year in high school, when my parents started to adopt again. Even now, I forget how different my family looks from other families. People stare and tend to ask questions when they see my entire immediate family out for dinner because everyone is curious about the diversity that is in my family.



I Never Labeled Myself as the Adopted Child
Every adopted child has a different story and comes from a different situation, just as my siblings, my nephew, and I are apart of the same family, but have very unique backgrounds. For adoptive parents, the best advice I could give you is to love your adopted child just as you would love your own biological child. For me, I never labeled myself as the adopted child because my parents never treated me any different than my older brothers. Also, be honest about information about your child's biological family. It wasn't until I was much older that I discovered my parents had information on my biological family. Long story short, I didn't care about the actual information that my parents had to share, but the fact that they had never confided in me this very personal information. Even today, I can't really tell you the information that they had not told me, but the fact one day I just happened to say and ask all the right questions for the topic to be brought up. However, they have learned from this 
situation and my adopted siblings will benefit from it in the future.



My Family Has Taught Me What is Important in Life


Adoption is a beautiful thing and I could not be more blessed than I am. I thank God every day for my family. There isn't any family in the world I would rather be apart of. My family has taught me what is important in life and I think it would be difficult to find better role models. My grandfather showed me how to be supportive of those you love. My grandmother taught me how to rely on God and pray about everything. My father showed me what a family should look like and what a man of God should be. My mother taught me compassion and how to incorporate it in everyday life. My brother, Derek, taught me how to be selfless and to think of others first, and my oldest brother, Chris, showed me what it meant to be responsible and to prioritize. My younger adopted siblings taught me that no matter what, there is always more love to share. However, the most important lesson my family has ever taught me is through any and every situation, my family will always have my back and that God will never put me through anything I cannot handle, for He will always be with me.



You will have a chance to meet Erica's parents and hear about their family at HOPE AT HOME 2011. They will be speaking on Special Needs Adoption. To find out more and to Register go to hopeathome2011.org
Register by this Friday to take advantage of our Early Bird Registration. 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

HOPE AT HOME 2011 BREAKOUTS--HOPE AND HELP FOR YOU!

I can't tell you how often I have gained practical wisdom, and emotional and spiritual strength,  from talking and praying with parents who have "been there" or who have a perspective that I so desperately need, but has slipped from my grip. The HOPE AT HOME 2011 breakouts will be like a river of refreshing water for fathers and mothers, buoying you up and carrying you along in the Father's HOPE-- hope for you, and hope for you children.
We are SO excited about these breakout topics and speakers! God is setting us up for a wonderful time of connecting--with our Father in Heaven, with each other, and with practical and helpful wisdom. Register HERE. Only one more week to get the Early Bird Registration price, so don't put it off!


Answering the Tough Questions
Many of us are unsure how to wisely answer some of the questions our children ask us. Questions like, “Why did you adopt me,” or “Why do I look different than you?” or “Why didn’t my ‘real’ parents keep me?” And then there are the questions posed by others—“Do you love him as much as your ‘real’ children?” and “What happened to their parents?” for instance. Dr. Ron Braund will share insightful, healthy and healing responses to these and other tough questions. Bring a few of your own.



Dr. Ron Braund is experienced as a family business consultant, behavioral health professional, mission leader and author. His clients include the owners of Chick-fil-A, Hobby Lobby, family foundations, corporate executives and professional athletes. In 2008, he assisted the U.S. Ryder Cup Captain & golf professional, Paul Azinger, to implement a winning team-building strategy in America's victory over the European Ryder Cup team at Valhalla.
As a marriage & family therapist, Dr. Braund has over 25 years experience as a systems counselor integrating psychological perspectives with biblical truth. For 14 years he hosted a daily radio program, Marriage & Family Today, produced in association with Moody Broadcasting in Atlanta. He is the author or co-author of five books including Understanding How Others Misunderstand You, a book and workbook describing behavioral principles to improve relationships with others; The Strong-Willed Child or Dreamer?, a book for parents to discern the crucial differences between a strong-willed child and a creative-sensitive child; and Cracking the Code: The Winning Ryder Cup Strategy.

Dr. Braund is the founder of Mission Specialties, Inc. MSI facilitates leaders serving neglected and abused children in the U.S. and around the world. He is the chairman of the CoMission for Children at Risk (www.comission.org), a network of mission organizations dedicated to serving orphans and street children in Eastern Europe. He has been instrumental in developing Foster Care and Orphan Transition Programs that assist churches, foster families and orphan “graduates” seeking to pursue independent living and life skills training.

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Fathering Your Adopted Child
In this session Dionne van Zyl and Stephen Templeton will be discussing some foundational principals of fathering, including the biblical authority of a father and the practical outworking of this spiritual mantle God has put on our lives. As such we will address the problem of passivity and the need to parent forward rather than backward. We will discuss some of the unique challenges of fathering adopted children with an emphasis on practical application. Finally there will be opportunity for prayer and ministry at the end of the session. Fathers are encouraged to attend.


Dionne van Zyl is an ordained minister, elder at Northlands church and father of four children (ages 12 to 22), all of whom are serving the Lord. He has a deep interest and expertise in business and financial markets and is president of a private equity fund, Doron Capital.





Stephen Templeton is the father of seven children, ages 16 to 22. Eleven years ago, after having had three biological children, the Lord called him and his wife Beth to adopt four children from Russia. He is an elder and worship leader at Northlands church. He is also a physician and practices dermatopathology in Atlanta.
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From the Outside Looking In: Transracial Adoption
As parents of children of a different race, we fall in love with our children and eventually--we insist we do not even see our outside differences. We see more deeply into their hearts, sometimes overlooking and forgetting the differences the outside world sees. Richard and Andrea Young will take a look at the complex issues that arise for every transracial family, exploring the countless opportunities and environments parents can create from the very beginning to help their child and entire family navigate through some of the challenges as they seek to nurture children confident in how God created them, how God made their families, and ultimately helping them find their identity in Christ.

Richard and Andrea Young are the parents of 4 children--soon to be 5 with the last two being brought to them through the miracle of adoption. They have been married for 8 years. They have served on the board for Wiphan Care Ministries since it's beginning in 2007 and make regular trips to Zambia (Africa) where the two schools serve 450 orphans and 150 widows. In 2010, Andrea saw the need for adoption moms to receive rest, Biblical encouragement and fellowship with one another and started the non-profit ministry Created for Care, which holds yearly retreats for adoptive mothers. They live in the Atlanta area where Richard works as an insurance broker for Charter Energy and Andrea homeschools their children. 



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Life Giving Speech: Being Deliberate with our Authority
As parents we carry God-given authority which we should use wisely. We form world views and set boundaries by our speech. We create expectations and fashion dreams by what we say to our children. In this session Greg Haswell will lead a discussion on some practical ways in which we can harness our speech to build into our children's lives.

"He Restores My Soul": God's Plan for Restoration
We are often very conscious of the price we have paid to adopt, and of the toll it has taken on us. In this session Michelle Haswell will investigate what God promised to restore to us, and have a time of ministry and prayer. God is by nature a redeemer and loves to restore our souls.

Greg and Michelle Haswell
Greg Haswell has been in ministry alongside his wife Michelle for 25 years. Twelve years ago God called them from South Africa to start a church in Atlanta. He is a Bible teacher and church planter who builds into churches and church leaderships around the world. Greg and Michelle currently live in Atlanta, GA where Greg is the pastor of Northlands church. www.northlandschurch.com



Michelle Haswell has been married to Greg for 25 years. They have one married daughter, Nicole. Michelle has spent a number of years in education as an elementary school teacher and as head of faculty. She enjoys ministry to women, prophetic ministry and seeing lives restored to wholeness. Michelle travels with her husband Greg, ministering with him in churches around the world. 


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Special Needs Adoptive Parenting
Have you ever considered that of the 37 miracles Jesus performed, twenty were performed on adults and children with special needs?  This would certainly indicate that our Creator has a special heart and concern for those with physical and mental challenges.  In this session, Randy and Teresa Grimes, along with Christie Ingram, will share their personal experiences as adoptive parents of special needs children.  You’ll gain support and insight for responding to your child’s special needs, including both those that were known and unknown prior to the adoption process.


Randy and Teresa Grimes have been married for almost 28 years.  They are the parents of six children, four of whom have joined their family through adoption.  Their children range in ages from 26 years to 19 months.  They view their family as a unique tapestry that only God could have had the vision to create.  Randy and Teresa have been involved in adoption, foster care and children's issues for almost 23 years.  In 2005, Randy and Teresa developed a non-profit ministry called Jochebed's Hope to focus on the Biblical foundation for adoption and provide adoption education, information and support. Randy is currently the lead pastor of Family by Faith Worship Center in Forsyth County.  The chuch's unique focus and ministry is to share Christ and bring people into the family of God through the spiritual process of adoption. 

Christie Ingram has been married to her husband David for 9 years. They began their adoption journey in late 2004. In June of 2005 they welcomed home their daughter, Carly. In January of 2006 they welched their second daughter, Olivia, home from Guatemala. In June of 2006 Christie gave birth to their son joshua. Needless to say, the past 6 years have been busy but full of joy! Christie works as a special education teacher for Forsyth County Schools. She also works part time as the special needs adoption coordinator for One World Adoption Services in Buford, Georgia. Christie's passion for special needs adoption was ignited with the adoption of Carly, who has Down Syndrome. Christie is involved in the children's ministry of her church.

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Interrupting the Orphan and HIV Cycle
In this session Dr. Susan Hillis will provide a systematic overview of the global orphan and HIV emergencies, along with the role of the church as an instrument of love and life.  Practical considerations for those considering adoption of an HIV positve child will be discussed.


Loving Through the Life Cycle
Susan and Brian Hillis will lead a panel composed of parents of preschoolers, elementary age, teens, and young adults will share briefly about lessons learned in loving children at various ages.  Most of the session will be interactive question and answer.



Susan Hillis, PhD, MS has been a believer for 38 years, married to a godly servant for 35, a mother for 26, a US government federal official for 20, and a university professor for 10 years. She is the mother of 11 children, 8 of whom were adopted from Russia after the tragic death of her first-born son on the day before his tenth birthday. It is her deep joy and privilege to have received untold personal blessings from the living God. She has worked and ministered in countries in South America, Africa, and Eastern Europe. She participates widely as an invited speaker at scientific and Christian conferences. She has published more than 80 articles in scientific medical journals and is considered one of the leading infectious diseases experts on the HIV risk among vulnerable youth around the world. Dr. Hillis is a recent recipient of the Outstanding Service Medal as a Captain in the U.S. Public Health Service.
During her married life she has worn many hats, including stay-at-home mom, graduate student, missionary, government official, nurse, scientist, and university professor. She has experienced infertility, caring for a son with a fatal heart condition, loss of her son through a fatal biking accident, and 8 international adoptions of older children from Russian orphanages. She, her husband, and their 10 children recently lost their home in the 2009 Atlanta floods, which were declared a presidential disaster.
Her experience suggests that God’s goodness is bigger than all the storms of life.

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Parenting Your Adopted Child as a Single Mother
This session will take a personal look at multiple strategies for not only surviving, but also thriving as a single adoptive mom. Renee Johnson will explore these practical topics; studying your child, identifying and prioritizing needs, eliminating the unnecessary, matching resources with needs, survival tips, finding fellowship, and defining our family.


Connecting with Your Child; Helping Your Child Connect with You
In this session Renee Johnson will take a practical, experiential based and hands-on look at several aspects of bonding.  Included in the discussion will be the basic areas of connection, tools and strategies that have easy implementation, setting bonding goals, measuring one’s success and finding encouragement in the small steps.


The Johnson Family
Renee L. Johnson and her three Russian daughters have been blessed to become a family through adoption. First in 1999, again in 2001 and for a final time in 2003 the Lord added a daughter to her family.  Today two of the girls are seniors in high school and one is a sophomore in college.  The parenting journey has caused her to grow, stretch and reach into the many arenas that come with the challenges set before her.   In addition to being a mom, Renee holds degrees in Physical Therapy and Public Health.  She balances her home life with her responsibilities as a Senior Scientist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


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Lessons for Fathers from Exodus
Encouragement will be drawn from the book of Exodus for dads who have adopted children.  Moses led a journey through the desert towards the promised land, similar to the journey many of us are living.  Brian Hillis will take a look at the book of Exodus to draw encouragement and see evidence of God's active  hand in the life of Moses, as well as in our own lives.


Brian Hillis is a father of 11 kids, 8 adopted from Russia at older ages.  By training he is both an educator and a CPA.  During the first 15 years of marriage, he worked outside the home as a missionary in Latin America, an educator, and a CPA.  During the next 20 years, his work was primarily in the home, serving God by loving his wife and all those children.


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Hearing the Voice of God: A Key to Breakthrough
for You and Your Child
“HE who belongs to God hears what God says” John 8:47
Scripture declares that God's children, of all ages, can know and hear God's voice.  Jenni Means will teach about the many ways God speaks to us and  equip us to help position our children to hear the loving voice of their Heavenly Father.  Hearing God is a powerful tool in bringing revelation to parents, and healing and God-given identity to our children.





Jenni Means has been leading in children's ministry for 25 years and is currently on staff at Northlands Church. With a Bachelors Degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and many years of teaching in both public and private Christian schools, Jenni is highly qualified to speak to parents. She has come alongside many adopted children and their families as through her ministry. Jenni has partnered with No More Crumbs Ministries in training children, youth and adults in Georgia, Holland, Ukraine, UK and Malaysia. She has been married to Scott for 29 years; they have three daughters.


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Build Your Marriage, Bless Your Children
You are giving so much to your children: your time, your energy, your emotions, and your finances.  But did you know that the best thing you can give them is the gift of a strong marriage?!  If you are struggling with the competing demands of spouse and kids and everything else life throws at you, come to this breakout session led by Scott and Jenni Means to learn some simple, practical ideas for strengthening your marriage in the midst of the mayhem.


Scott Means runs a popular marriage blog called Journey to Surrender. He is passionate about renewing and strengthening marriages in the church through the exploration of biblical marriage principles.  He sums up his blog with the phrase: "Marriage was God's idea, so let's do it His way!" Scott is also one of the worship leaders at Northlands Church in Atlanta. He and his wife, Jenni, have been married for 29 years and have three wonderful daughters. Their ministry to adoptive families has touched many lives for eternity. They are ones God has called to come alongside, and they have done that well, and have learned much about the needs that arise from loving adopted children.


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Fostering Unity Among Siblings in Your Adoptive Family
How can we establish and nurture a culture of honor in our homes amidst the sometimes competing needs and demands of our growing families? Both adopted and biological siblings have much to face as they adjust to the changing relationships and family position that is a part of adoption. Beth Templeton will look at ways we parents can create an atmosphere of unity and peace in our adoptive families.



Parenting into Our Child's God-Given Identity
Who is this child, really? As important and helpful as it is to have understanding of our child’s past as we parent, it is of the most vital importance to have revelation of who God says our child is. In this session Beth Templeton will talk about how we can parent our child in the Spirit, responding and parenting forward, into their true identity in Christ.

Beth Templeton has been married to her husband, Stephen, for 25 years. They have seven children, aging from 16 to 22. Several years after giving birth to three girls, God called their family into the adventure and blessing of adoption. In 2000, they brought home a brother and sister from Russia, ages 5 and 10. Then they returned to the same orphanage 18 months later and brought home two more brothers, ages 7 and 10. Currently, three of their children are in college and four are in high school.
Stephen and Beth serve as leaders in their local church. Beth leads a ministry to mothers; and both have a passion for communicating the joy, peace, and victory available to us as parents.



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