Wednesday, August 10, 2011

An Adoption Story

There are moments in time that remain etched forever in our minds. The sights, the sounds, even the smells of that single moment can be conjured up ten, twenty, even fifty years down the road.

Carissa Yoder had such a moment. It’s been almost fifteen years since she made the trip to Romania with her father, still her voice softens and her eyes stare off into the distance as she recalls the moments shared with the children of one particular orphanage. Watching her, you know she is there once again. She tells of the filth… the grime. Even now, her voice is filled with passion as she recounts the babies lying in urine-soaked cribs staring blankly into space. “I stood there feeling hopeless! There was nothing… nothing I could do to change their situation permanently.” She stops for a moment as her almost five-year-old son, Max, calls for her attention. “Mommy,” he asks, “Can you call me by my new nickname? Can you call me ‘Star’?” She pats his head and smiles, “Sure, Star, not a problem.” He grins and runs off to play, pleased with his new identity.

“Where was I?” She pauses to gather her thoughts, and then continues. “Those children in the orphanage. I could offer them a meal, or hold them for a little bit, but what more could I do? I was a teenage girl! There really wasn’t anything I could do to change these children’s lives.”

Carissa has never returned to that particular orphanage, but the experience changed her forever. She left with a new awareness of the intense poverty so many live with in the world today. Soon after her marriage to Jon Yoder in 2000, they packed up their belongings and moved to China where they lived as missionaries for the next four years. Three of their five children, Ben, Madi and Zoe, were born in Asia followed by the twins, Max (a.k.a. Star) and Mia, several months after moving back to the states in 2006.

Though her life was full and happy, Carissa never could shake that memory of the orphanage from her mind. Her travels to different parts of the world told her a truth many remain unaware of – we are blessed. “We are so stinkin’ rich in comparison to the rest of the world!” She gestures towards her cozy living room and kitchen. Her home is clean and welcoming, yet modest in contrast to suburban America. Another sign of what lies within Carissa’s heart.

“Jon and I want to raise our kids to love like Jesus,” she states. “I have so much. If I really want to love others like Jesus, then I must be willing to share what I have.”

Her dream of changing someone’s life is about to come true. And not just one someone, but two! In 2009, Jon and Carissa got serious about their desire to adopt a child after attending a large conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Another family of seven had adopted two children and their story struck a chord. Soon after, they learned that every day, 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes. Their decision was made. They would adopt!

For various reasons, they decided it would be best to bring two children into their home, if possible. At first, the obvious choice seemed to be to adopt from Asia, but after some research discovered they would not be eligible for that option. “Household income, as well as number of children already in the home plays a big part in where you can adopt from,” she explains. But one country kept coming up over and over again. Uganda.

The Yoder’s attend Grace Fellowship in Sturgis, a church known in the community for their support of this small country in Africa. As more and more countries were crossed off their list of possibilities, Uganda remained. Carissa learned of the intense poverty the Uganda children are exposed to, and her heart broke for them.

They breezed through the home studies and now wait, wondering, when the call will come. When will they be matched to the children they’ll soon call their own?

In the meantime, preparations are being made in anticipation of bringing home their precious children. The five Yoder kids chatter excitedly about whether there will be two boys or two girls… or one of each. How old will they be? What are their names? Already, Carissa’s desire to teach her children to love is evident. An uncommon love is seen inside the four walls of this happy home.

Yes, it’s uncommon, but that word pretty much sums up the Yoder’s. The unselfish choice of giving others a better life is about as uncommon as their fun-loving approach for raising funds to make the trip to Uganda. Flying seven people there…and nine back, is not cheap, so once again, Carissa began searching - this time for fundraiser ideas. That’s how she discovered the “Cow Drop”.

Never heard of it? Don’t worry, most haven’t. The Cow Drop is quite simple actually. A grid is being painted in the pasture behind their house and tickets are sold for each individual square. On Saturday, August 20th, Chuck the Cow will make his appearance – right after his evening meal. If Chuck “drops” in your square, you will walk away with a cash prize of $500! Carissa chuckles, “No worries, you don’t have to be here to win!”

The Yoder’s joined up with their friends, Justin and Becca Wickey, who are also in the process of adopting one child from Uganda, to create this fundraiser. All the money will be divided equally between the two families. You can help support the Yoder’s and Wickey’s by purchasing tickets for “Cow Drop Squares” at either Panache the Spalon or Boland Tire in Sturgis, as well as Yoder’s Country Market in Centreville. You can also purchase tickets by visiting Carissa’s blog (you'll also be able to learn more about their adoption story) or call Justin Wickey at 625-7150.

And even if Chuck the Cow doesn’t “visit” your square, you can sleep well knowing you helped make the lives of three little children a whole lot better.

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