Archive for the ‘Adoption Journey’ Category

Awaiting the Child…

It’s everywhere right now, and at times becomes difficult.  “What Child Is This?”, “Away in a Manger”, and plenty more continue to remind us of the precious baby boy that was born to Mary.  We celebrate Christmas, and love the gift our world has received in Christ.

But with so much emphasis in Advent being on “Waiting for the Child”, it has a few hard moments.

Moments where we’re reminded of the long journey we’ve been on.  Moments we’re reminded that on the other side of the world is a little girl who has no idea yet, the road that is leading our family to bring her home.

We’re still praying for the DRC to work on new laws to better protect Congolese children.  We pray for Government and Village stability, for peace, for a revival in human rights, children’s rights, and emphasis on the importance of family planning and care.  Ultimately, pausing to better protect Congolese children and implement laws that will deter human trafficking is a great thing.  It’s just hard timing for our family and many others, as well as the many children in need of a family and a home currently living in extremely poor conditions.

It’s hard to see the great needs, and feel like because of the pause in exit letters we cannot do anything of value right now.  But there are still great things we can do, and we invite you to be a part of them.  One way in particular has recently let us know they could use new support.

header3For only $30/month, you could help sponsor a child currently living in an orphanage in the DRC.  If you have questions about specifics, we can help answer some questions, and so can they.  Supporting this ministry is intimately connected to our journey of adoption.  If you’re looking for a place to serve, or use money from your Christmas bonus – this would be another great option.  Many of you have donated to our adoption already, and are bored of giving without much to show for it.  We feel your frustration.  If you’d like to give/support our adoption, but want to know the money is going directly to a child in need right now – this is a great way to do it. 🙂

Thanks again for all of your support, and especially for your prayers…we hope to have great news, and celebrate a miracle very soon. 🙂

Garage Sales & Loaves & Fishes

“Who donates a lot of garage sale items to someone as Fall turns to Winter?”

I’ll confess, this is one of the thoughts that briefly crossed my mind.  But as our friends have giant hearts, we love them, and knew this was probably a great opportunity, I accepted.  Which is to say, I passed the information to my wife.

The semi-commitment was made to come and look through some of the things they’d found as they were organizing their home.  They have a couple pretty awesome daughters, so who knows?  Maybe there’d be cool stuff for our girls in the midst of it.  There was no rush, as we didn’t have any plans to have a fundraiser anytime soon.  Little did we know what would happen.

Within the week, a call was received from our Adoption Agency.  Unexpected expenses, with a total that didn’t drain us, but definitely set us back a bit.  We stood briefly on the precipice of indecision.  As much as I despise “sales”, I can’t shake the fact that it usually ends up a worthwhile endeavor.  Okay, let’s go see what they’ve got.  I expected a few tubs.

“It’s not much, but you can have it all.” Words that sounded Biblically familiar. Only there was no boy with loaves and fishes.  Here was a family simply offering us a few things they thought might make a small sale, perhaps online, or when the weather warms up a bit.  They’d even help us take it all home.  But what if…what if we did a sale…now?  Schedules were checked.  Prayers were whispered.  A sale was put on the calendar.  Less than two weeks away.

Let’s see what we can get?  This is a pretty good start, right?  We made a flyer, we passed the word.

Friends responded.  Family responded.  Even from far away.  The loaves and fishes multiplied.  All of a sudden, we were drowning in a sea of donations.  The date of the sale approached.  We sent the flyer anywhere we could think.  Internet, radio, newspaper, public boards, etc.  It was all still theoretical, beyond the tubs sitting in our dining room.  That much we knew we could sell.  What else was coming?  We would find out the day before the sale, when donations would be arriving.

And arrive they did.  What began as a few tables, unleashed to cover an entire gymnasium filled with over 30 tablesIMG_5270 and more.  Friends showed up with boxes, and donated time.  Kids played.  A Friday filled to the brim with anticipation and sorting.  We and our friends hit the pillows, exhausted.  Before overtaken by sleep I prayed, “Jesus, please help someone come and buy something.”  Our goal was well over any garage sale I’d ever been a part of.  We also knew, if no one came to the sale, we were stuck with a whole lot of….stuff. 🙂

Saturday morning came, and so did they.  Lots of them.  Even someone switching price tags around on Christian artwork to get a better deal couldn’t put a damper on our spirits.  The kids helped sell baked goods.  Our friends from out of town worked as if it were their own sale.  Little by little, the tables were thinned.   Money was coming in.  It slowed around lunchtime, and never quite picked up again.  The dust began to settle.  Thankfully, a local thrift store agreed to come and collect what was left.  They were so excited, these leftovers were worth thousands!  We were so excited, we wouldn’t have to load it all up and take it somewhere ourselves!

As the dust settled, and the profits were counted, the total came in.  We had surpassed our already ridiculously high goal.  Once again, God had taken someone willing to say, “It’s not much, but it’s yours.”, and used it to do something miraculous, and at the perfect time.

Maybe you’re holding loaves and fishes of your own this week.  Maybe you’re wondering if it’s even worth offering.  It doesn’t make sense.  It seems bad timing.  It doesn’t seem like much compared to the need.

But in the hands of God – anything can happen…will you offer it to Him?

We are thankful someone did, for us. 🙂

Reaching out, again…

Okay friends & family, it’s finally that time again.  I can’t give all the details in a public post, but if you’d like to know more please give me a call.  (And no, in case you’re trolling here, we’re not preparing to go around the DRC Government in ANY way.   We love and respect the people of hte DRC, and look forward to a life of our family being invested in their future.)  In any case, we’ve hit a point in our adoption where we need to raise more funds.

Yes, the country is still not issuing “Exit Letters”, until new laws/processes are in place to better protect the children.  We are continuing to move forward within the country, through the parts of the process still allowed, believing that we want to be as ready as possible when those doors open once again.  This also means providing for her care in the meantime.7a5b3-andersonst-louis2011384

Even in the midst of significant wait and what seems to be a hopeless road, there have been great steps moving toward us bringing home this child we’ve been praying over 2 years for.  We are so thankful for the generosity and prayers of so many of you.  We’ve even added something new for your fundraising enjoyment!!

1. Wick’s BandCamp Page –  Trying something new!   Here you will be able to buy individual spoken words, as well as a couple songs I threw on there for fun.  100% of every dollar goes toward our adoption fund!   I’ve plenty more spoken words that will eventually be uploaded if ya’ll like these.  If I only sell a couple, I’ll just tell my mom thanks and move on.  🙂

2.  Amazon Books – Both my self-published parenting book and the Children’s Book we created with our kids are available for digital purchase on Amazon.com.   A large chunk of every sale comes right to me, and goes directly into our adoption fund!

3. Giving through “Both Hands” – Since the very beginning with our first service project, they’ve been our most popular method of giving/receiving funds for this adoption.  Donations are tax deductible, and you can mail them a check or simply give online!!

As you’re preparing for the Holidays, we hope & pray you’ll consider one of these options. Even in place of sending us a Christmas card, just download an mp3 and send me a video of you laughing at it. 🙂  Or in place of a gift, throw a few bucks out to “Both Hands”, and e-mail me a Merry Christmas.  But above all, please continue to pray.  Not just for our family or our children, but pray for the entire DRC.  Pray for their government and their leaders, as their senate continues to meet.  Pray for the areas where rebels continue to break out in fighting.  Pray for those who are overlooked in the shuffle and quest for power and influence.  Pray for the stability and future of these beautiful people, and the preservation of their rich heritage in the midst of a world that is realizing more and more, the value of their nation.

Open Letter to DRC President Joseph Kabila

Your Excellency,

We don’t know each other.  I could never understand all that you’ve been through, or all the weight that you currently carry as leader of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  You and I have both made mistakes.  Because of your position and influence, when you make a mistake, its’ impact is large.  But we are both fallible.  Our strength comes not as we deny this, but as we humble ourselves and accept help/guidance from others.  As Desmond Tutu said,

“..You can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity.  We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.”

I’ll be honest, I have a selfish motivation even in writing to you.  My family is pursuing an adoption of a child from the DRC that began years ago.  We would love to bring her home.  But even as I write this, there are families who are responding to your country and your authority with disrespect and malice.  I want to apologize for their actions and their words.  In regards to international adoption, we must not sacrifice the future protection of children and sustainable family-life for immediate homecomings of those being processed.  I understand that you and many others would be upset by what seems to be a lack of respect.  It seems many are more interested in forcing or coercing your hand to “bring home” children, rather than offer whatever assistance/wisdom we can toward reforming the systems in place for taking care of the future generations of Congolese.  The “best case scenario” is not to figure out how to do adoptions well.  The “best case scenario” involves healing the land, people, and systems so that the DRC can flourish and be the beautiful nation and people it has the potential to be.

I know you have a lot on your plate.  Even as great things are accomplished for women’s rights  in the Senate and your soccer team is competing, MONUSCO looks toward new action against the FDLR.  The conflict that continues in Eastern Congo is only a small part of the struggle your people have faced for over half a century, and even longer.  As so many in the world have valued their own desires, and sought to fill their own bank accounts and resources, the people of your nation were not only trampled on and stolen from, but they were learning a way of existence.  The way of existence that declares, “I look out for myself, no one else.”  Generations have come and built lives on this approach, and so there has been war, rape, murder, and worse.  Children are not allowed to be children, as parents are forced to sacrifice them to survive.  When children cannot trust their parents, there cannot be family.  When “family” is lost, so too are communities and eventually, nations.

I don’t speak all of these things from a nation that “has it all correct”.  As you have probably seen, the United States has its’ own struggles.  We too have built on generations declaring “I look out for myself, no one else.”  Our conflict may not be as visible, but it is having an impact on “family”, and therefore also, our nation.  From what I’ve read, you believe in Jesus Christ and in the Bible as the Word of God.  I’m appealing to you, therefore, not as someone who has much to offer you.  But as a brother in Christ.

Christ calls us to humble ourselves, to admit our faults and seek redemption.  As I began my letter I pointed out that when you make a mistake, the impact is large because of your power and position.  The opposite can also be true!  When you humble yourself and seek the redemption of what God intends for you and for your nation – it has incredible potential to transform the world both now and for the future!!  You’re in a unique position right now to bring reform, and not only speak words but put into action, plans and resources to transform and protect the future children of the DRC.  Imagine a future where your daughter, Sifa, whose name means “reputation/praise”, can proudly share who her father was, and point out the legacy you helped leave behind.  That even though you made mistakes when you were young and seeking power in a country where everyone was doing the same thing – you came to a point where you realized those errors, and were transformed.  That is the Good news of the Gospel message.  Lives like yours and mine, Jesus came to bring freedom from our sin, and redemption/new life through us for the sake of the world!

I know many voices are calling simply for you to “open the doors” and allow adopted children to go home.  As beautiful as that would be for so many families, it would also land your nation right where it was when this all began.  There is corruption, and changes need to happen.  You’ve already stated that publicly, but nothing concrete has been seen yet.  I encourage you, to put together a team to examine and reform the adoption process in the DRC.  Invite leaders from several nations where families are thriving, and figure out a long-term plan for the future of your people in the context of a global community.  Figure out what investments are being made in the economy of your nation, and what those investors are seeking to gain.  You have hundreds of families from all over the world, waiting to be forever connected with the DRC through their children!  What a great resource to tap into, and to invite into life-long relationships with!  As the country eventually opens, invite these parents to stay connected, and encourage partnerships with the local communities their children are adopted from.  Help develop structures and accountability so that such partnerships remain healthy and not yet another “I’ll get mine” enterprise.  Set a goal, not of simply serving the orphaned of today, but of healing the families and communities of your nation so that if and when orphans exist – the community and resources are there to provide homes and families for those children.

Allow your people to experience the beginning of needed healing, by publicly declaring you will not alter the constitution or seek another term in office.  Your country needs more than you, and more than any individual leader has to offer.  Lead them into an existence that declares “Ubuntu” once again.  Help them find a leader who can guide them into this next season of healing and redemption of family.

And someday, when you’re no longer carrying the weight and responsibility you carry, and you have some free time, I’d love to meet you.  To have my daughters meet yours.  To have our wives drink tea together.  To sing together, a song of worship to the God who offers to transform us both for the sake of a world that needs us to bear His image.

Thanks for your time,

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I’ll admit, this is probably a bit starry-eyed and will probably never be read by the President of the DRC….but it helps me to pray better.  Not simply for my daughter, whom I hope to hold someday.  But for her friends, her commune, her nation, and the future of the DRC that Jesus declares there is hope for.  And I believe Him…

Child Sacrifice

“Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” – Genesis 22:2

This was in our family reading yesterday.  As I was reading it out loud for my kids to hear, I wondered what sort of thoughts might go through their mind.  A daddy was asked by God to sacrifice his son?  And he DID it?  Well, not completely, but still.  He tied up his son, whom he loved, and offered him to God as a sacrifice?

I quickly connected it to something easier to swallow.  I asked the kids, “What is something you love a whole lot, that God might ask you to let go of in order to follow Him?”  I wondered what might be going through their minds, as they tried to imagine God asking something large in their life to be sacrificed in order to be a part of what God wanted to accomplish.

I remember reading this passage in college.  Studying it with my theology friends.  Talking about Kierkegaard’s thoughts over coffee, and feeling like we grasped just how audacious these passages of scripture were.  Then life took me out of the coffee shop and into the mini-van.  It’s so hard to understand Abraham’s response in this passage.  It’d be easier if we had a chapter, or at least several verses after verse 2 here.  A conversation, or at least open complaint to God from Abraham, of how unjust and difficult it was for him to swallow what God was asking him to do.  Instead, the very next verse is about Abraham getting up , saddling his donkey, and telling his son “Let’s go”.kids on the bus

As I was reading the story this week, a thought struck me.  Even though I’m not tying my kids up, laying them on an altar, and raising a knife above them….I am still offering my children to God as a sacrifice.  As is any family that takes steps in faith toward a path God is calling them to.  We spend time in prayer, as parents.  We ask God to be with us. We ask God to bless us. We ask God to bless our family, and our home.  We ask for Him to bless our children as they grow.  But even more than “blessing”, we ask God to use our family for the purposes of His Kingdom.  That has nothing to do with how successful our kids might be someday, or what college/career they head toward.

Although that’s definitely a tempting approach to praying for our children.  In the popular TV show, “Once Upon a Time”, Snow White and her Beau save their infant from a cursed Kingdom by shoving the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes through a magic portal.  This assures their child will escape the current cursed situation, and have a decent chance at a normal and successful life.  Every parent faces this temptation.  To shield our children from anything God might ask from us in this broken world, and prepare them for “someday” when they’ll be launched into life, ready and strengthened by years of protected existence.

Instead, God calls us to lift our children, and our family/home up onto the stone altar.  To faithfully respond to whatever He’s calling us toward, even knowing it will impact them.  It may cause suffering.  It may mean large amounts of sacrifice.  It might mean that after years of praying for God to help us with our adoption, our 8 year old will interrupt prayer time to say, “Dad, why doesn’t God just…you know….DO something?”

In those moments, I feel a little like Abraham carrying his son up the mountain.  His son looks at everything they’re carrying, and in a confused moment he asks his father, “..but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” (v.7)  Abraham responds that God will provide.  In this similar moment, my daughter needs me to speak with faith into her life as well.  It’s hard for me to do, just as I imagine it would’ve (should’ve) been for Abraham.  Yet I look into her eyes and say the words, “God will provide.”

He will.  He has.  He is.  Our family is being formed in a crucible of prayer that will and already is, influencing the direction of their lives.  These little hearts who are called on every day to think about God’s heart for a broken world that needs healing.  These young people who are reminded that just like God wants to use our family – God wants to use them for the sake of the world, also.

But just being honest here?  I’m scanning those bushes like crazy, even as I’m tying up my children…

Insanity of God…

“I held tight to the psalmist David’s conviction that the weeping and tears might linger for the night, but that joy would come in the morning.  Sadly, after six years in Somalia, each morning brought only more tears.  For perhaps the first time in my life, I was dealing with something that I could not fix. Prayer and obedience and hard work and good training and Godly intentions and sacrifice – none of it seemed to make a difference.” – Nik Ripken, The Insanity of Godinsanityofgod

We are being reminded lately, that when you connect your life with the broken heart of God, it’s often heart-breaking.  It’s not a great sales pitch, and it’s not a great advertisement to convince a world that doesn’t know Jesus that we’ve made a good decision.  It’s not even a great testimony to convince other Christians we are, indeed, following God’s call on our life.  Heck, it’s not even a great assurance to ourselves as we lay our heads on pillows each night…wondering where God is.

The truth is, God’s people are suffering globally.  They are suffering in horrible and unjust ways. They are sold into slavery, trampled underfoot in the name of progress, cast aside for more important things.  They are thrown in prisons, beheaded, shot at, and sometimes – even made fun of in high school cafeterias.  Does this mean God has turned a blind eye to their needs?  Is God deaf to the cries of the suffering followers of Christ?  Why doesn’t He do something?  Lord of all creation, quiet in places that severely need His Words of healing and life.

I imagine the scene between Elijah and Ba’al, only this time it’s our God who is scoffed at, “Shout louder….Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling.  Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” 1 Kings 18:27

These are some of the same thoughts we have, now over 2 years into an adoption process.  2 years, and still we feel very close to where we began.  Those who know about adoption in the DRC might be quick to say something like, “What’d you expect?”  Certainly when we began the process, we knew not much about our path was certain.  But we stepped out on faith that we were responding in a way that revealed the heart of God.  Even though at times, if feels we’ve nothing to show for it….I still believe these years have been growing fruit for the Kingdom.  Not that I’d choose the same road, if I could go back in time.

Nik Ripken found himself in a similar spot, after years of suffering in Somalia.  Crying out to God, and returning to the US to see what needed to change, he set out on a new mission: to find out what good God was in places of intense suffering.  What he discovered is enough to fill many books, and encourage the heart of any broken follower.  God, and the belief in God is accomplishing great amounts of light in the midst of a darkened world.  Stories that don’t make sense, but reveal the heart and life of a God I’d give my life and the life of my family to serve.

“..before we can grasp the full meaning of the Resurrection, we first have to witness or experience crucifixion.  If we spend our lives so afraid of suffering, so averse to sacrifice, that we avoid even the risk of persecution or crucifixion, then we might never discover the true wonder, joy and power of a resurrection faith.  Ironically, avoiding suffering could be the very thing that prevents us from partnering deeply with the Risen Jesus.” – Nik Ripken

There appear to be forks in the road, very near, as we continue responding to God’s call on our family to reveal His love to a broken world.  We’re not yet sure what it will look like, but we know what it will feel like.  Heart-breaking.  As much as we have many confirmations, that we’re right in the midst of where the heart of God is…..it’s still hard.  Even as I can smile at my family, knowing we’re laying foundations for a home God can, and is using to change the world….I hold them before God, continuing to believe that He’s able to do what He has not yet done here…bring redemption to this story.

thoughts.

In the midst of DRC hitting all sorts of media, there have been plenty of negative responses to people who are pursuing adoption from the Congo these days.  The ones hitting home, have been those primarily directed at those of an Evangelical background.  Here are a few words I’ve gathered in response:

Some of the criticisms I’d agree with.  There is so much corruption and bad practice within the DRC, and even with agencies who have been removing children from there for years.  It’s a country that has been treated like a child, and with very little respect internationally for over a century.  This “freeze” on children leaving the country was partially how they intended to take the time necessary to change the structures/processes of adoption to ensure that justice was being served to both the children involved, and the nation as a whole (granted, with a bit of “We’ll show you we still have power.” intended).  Instead of recognizing their sovereignty, and respecting the desire to improve conditions/processes in adoption, some are seeing it as a Holy obstacle that God wants them to thwart/overcome somehow…leading to child smuggling, hateful pressuring, and calling the world to gasp in disgust.  Instead of being a loving community that wraps the DRC in prayer/support as they make the changes necessary, and try our best to care for the needs of the children as the process happens….some have begun to see those running the DRC as enemies of God.  Although I’m not sure what I’d be saying if we were through the entire adoption process, and waiting to bring her home. 🙂

The goal isn’t to rescue every child from the DRC into an adoptive family.  The goal is to reveal God and His love in a way that transforms the world.  As a sub-goal, one of our goals as a family is to care for the needs of this child we’ve accepted a referral for….however we’re able.  But it must still be done within the larger goal itself…not outside it.  That’s why we’ve naturally taken to praying for things happening in the DRC, and the officials/structures involved.  It’s why we’ve had hard conversations about what how we will respond even if the country doesn’t open up again, etc.  That’s why we’re not waiting until we bring her home to declare, this direction we’ve taken was one born in our hearts out of prayer…confident God has been using every step to bring transformation.  No matter what lies ahead.

That being said, I think some of the critiques commit the same error they accuse the Evangelical community of…viewing the issue from a Western mindset/context.  Assuming every country has orphans, and probably around the same number of them…and so the true and best response to any orphan crisis is obviously that a countrys’ own people would rise up and adopt/make families for the children.  That would be awesome, if A: The DRC had the financial resources and stability/infrastructure to do so, and B: The DRC didn’t have such a disproportionately high number of orphans due to the amount of rape/death-rate of parents.  The statistics I found seemed to be somewhere around 5,000,000 orphaned in DRC (7.6% of the population), compared to 129,000 in the US as of 2006 (0.04% of the population, of which 39% were over the age of 10).  So even taken from a humanistic/statistical point of view, the DRC needs people to reach out with their lives to bring Hope and Change to that region of Africa.  People who will not just say, “Let me take a child off your hands, and make sure that child knows about Jesus.”  But people who will say, “Let me connect the love of God growing in my family to the DRC…beginning with this adoption, and see what He might have in store.”  I think that’s happening in far more cases than these criticisms would like to admit.

One article in particular, shows how removed the author is from the situation:
“On the…website the wording takes the perspective of the adoptive parents: our child, a foreign land, home. The child however is not yet ‘ours’, it is still part of the extended family and the community in which it was born, a Congolese child for whom the US is foreign and the DRC is home. It is an open question whether the Father to whom the Americans pray is the same as the Father to whom the Congolese pray. In other words the perspective is not that of the child; the child’s needs and wishes are not acknowledged nor analyzed, but appropriated and fashioned into the parents’ needs and wishes. The child has to travel to the parent not only in reality but also in a metaphorical and metaphysical sense. The black child has to become an American Evangelical God loving Christian like their white adoptive parents.”

Let’s pretend the writer is accusing us in this paragraph.  They’re assuming this child we’re connected to is a “part of the extended family and community in which (she) was born, a Congolese child for whom the US is foreign and the DRC is home.”  Using the words “family” and “home” here might be great for tugging on heart-strings when you’re trying to grab people’s emotions.  But they don’t come anywhere close to describing where she lives right now.  Undernourished, unhappy, and barely scraping by in an orphanage whose employees struggle to feed their own children.  Laid out with over 30 others across a dirt floor every night, starving and alone each day.  We’re not assuming here either, these things have been verified by actual visits and photographs.  We’re not neglecting her perspective, needs, or wishes.  We’ve connected with others who have begun to improve living conditions in that orphanage.  But children deserve more than just “liveable” conditions.  They deserve a family and home they can thrive in.  We are not forcing a black child to come to white Christian America.  We’re offering a Hope for tomorrow, and a new life…and an open door to continuing God’s efforts in the DRC.  She’s offering us a transformed family, one called outside of itself, changing our identity as well.  Authors like this will never understand that it can happen in great, God-revealing ways….because they’d rather focus on the few cases like the woman from Belgium caught smuggling her child, or the loud voices yelling against the corrupt leaders of the DRC and paint a caricature of all faith-based international adoptive families.

Ps: The author of the article quoted above does point out “Would a great parent not do everything for its child? Even move to the Congo?” I know I’ve jokingly mentioned it a couple times to my wife. This sounds like a romantic notion, but also a quick way to put an entire family in danger.  With the current climate against Western adoption, to have a white family walking around with African children seems like it would be a great way to make yourself a target.  I’m not saying it’s an impossibility, and I’m sure some families would head that direction if the country closed for good.  But I don’t see it happening for our family this year.

We are still waiting for our case to even get the required permissions to go to court.  This has taken much longer than originally anticipated, which leaves a lot of what will happen from here unknown.  We’re thankful for all of our friends and family who are praying with us…that God will use our family to change the world (and our community), as we offer ourselves to Him…

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