Mother’s Day – Your Gift

MothersO God, in love you’ve given to me,
So much in this wonderful gift, I see.
The potential that lies before us now,
A precious young life to be molded, but how?

Children are given us as a sacred trust,
by the Father above who’s loving and just.
He shows the way to care for them,
By giving us a Biblical regimen.

Lots of love and joy, to fill the home,
So the little ones won’t want to roam.
Next goodness, peace and gentleness too,
So that they’ll see Jesus Christ in you.

Moving along down the road we’ll find,
To meekness and temperance, they’ll not be blind.
These little ones can sense and see,
Where patience is lacking inside of me.

But mother, don’t condemn yourself here,
Rather call upon Jesus to give you cheer.
He gives the Holy Spirit to impart,
the Fruit of His Spirit within our heart.

If we allow Him, He’ll work deep within,
To make and to mold us and free us from sin.
Trying of patience by children we love,
In this, He is fitting us for heaven above.

So don’t shy away, from God’s training for you,
While raising your gift, He’ll be changing you too.

(Written for a friend upon the adoption of their son. January 2006)

Photo Credit: Canva

Night Adventures

Have you ever felt like you were living inside a movie script? I recall a winter night in Romania, January 1999, waiting… hiding in the cemetery next to the orphanage.

At some point midweek, during our stay at the orphanage, Dale had asked Virginia about four particular children, siblings.  She said, “Oh no, that mother would never give up those children”. She went on to say how their mother loves them, that she lives out of the country, and that they have an Aunt who visits them and so they were not “adoptable” children.

Based upon Dale’s strong sense that these were the children we should adopt, he continued to pursue gathering information about them; he asked the nurse for further information. Sensing our sincerity, and with her heart of love for all of the children, she gave Dale the information he requested in order to contact a relative in a nearby town. Working as the orphanage nurse, and coming from a large Christian family herself, she knew how desperately children needed a home rather than a large institution to call home. Dale asked her if there was a way for us to meet with the relative who was involved with them. She said that she would arrange for us to meet the children’s Aunt, Maria, in a neighboring town some 40 miles away. She knew of Aunt Maria because of her many visits to see the children on Saturdays. This began an adventurous journey for us.

cemeteryWe arranged to meet “Ileana” on Friday night in the cemetery at 9:00 p.m., once she finished her shift. This was not easy to do as we were being monitored for our safety while in the country by our host. Fortunately, Gene – our friend and Virginia, had plans that evening to go and visit someone so they would be gone late into the night.

Ileana had arranged for a taxi driver, who she trusted and could confide in, to meet us at the appointed time. We all quickly jumped into the Dacia Taxi and headed to Suceava. Ileana took us to her sister’s small apartment to explain our situation. We needed help from her since she was a teacher, bilingual, and could interpret for us. From there we went to the train station to use the phone to call Aunt Maria.  Sure enough, Maria was home and willing to have late night visitors; Ileana’s sister briefly explained on the phone the intention of our visit.

It was about 10:30 p.m. when we entered the third-floor apartment, a big smile crossed Maria’s face; we soon learned that she recognized us! The previous Sunday we had been in her church in Burdigeni and Dale had spoken there, briefly mentioning to the congregation our desire to adopt children. Now, here we were, standing in her apartment inquiring about her nephew and nieces. We had a very good introductory visit.  Maria said she would contact her sister, Rodica, the children’s biological mother and explain the situation. Maria also informed us that she had brothers living in Michigan that we could contact as well upon our return to the U.S. I remember feeling like our mission had gone well, and realized that something was unfolding that would dramatically change our lives forever.

Making contact with Maria was important and now we had to get back into the orphanage at midnight without being detected or our whereabouts questioned. Our plan was to be dropped back off at the cemetery. Just as we were exiting the taxi, Virginia’s driver pulled onto the main road in front of us and raced over to us (for some reason I think of a scene in 101 Dalmatians whenever I think of this). Ileana narrowly escaped in the taxi, missing the confrontation that ensued. After a heated exchange, Dale assured Virginia that all was well and we were safely back for the evening. When we rounded the fence of the orphanage many children were hanging out of the windows and yelling something about finding us! So apparently our MIA episode had been buzzing about the orphanage that night.

betinia 3 pics (2)We were due to leave for the U.S. on Monday, so we had the whole weekend to observe the children.  On Sunday we attended the church connected with the orphanage and spotted the youngest of the four, Betinia, sitting in the choir area playing with a hole in the front of her dress. She was in the children’s choir and loved to sing! She was almost 5 years old and so cute. After church I went up to her and picked her up and hugged her. I knew this was, perhaps, my last opportunity to meet her and I didn’t want to miss it. The older siblings were hanging around us continuously and so we knew we’d get to spend more time with them.

Upon our departure, we left with the sense that these were the children we were hoping to adopt; so we felt certain our paths would cross again.

Once we return to the US, Dale contacted the children’s uncles in the Detroit area and explained the situation to them. They had already been contacted by Aunt Maria and also had spoken to Rodica, who lived in Italy. We learned that George, their biological father, had been living in Israel for sometime and that little or no contact had been made with him for about 5 years. So having made these initial contacts we continued to pray and wait to see what lay ahead.

Photo Credit: Pixabay, Demary

The Clinic

foot-1357881__480Please don’t abort your baby; I’ll adopt your child…  REALLY? As I talked to these young women facing so much turmoil with their choice to abort their baby, I would often repeat the line that I had heard so many other pro-lifers say. On this particular day, as I stood outside the doors of the abortion clinic, those words hit me and I thought, Wow, would I really adopt her child? That is quite a commitment.

That’s how the journey, for me, into the world of adoption began.

I was raised in Central Wisconsin, the seventh of eight children in a hard-working farm family. We were not given to sophisticated speech; as a matter-of-fact, my vocabulary was quite plain until I met and married my husband, Dale. My family actually practiced a simple biblical principle, even though at the time we could not have quoted the verse. Jesus said, Let your yes, be yes and your no, no (Mt. 5:37). It simply means that if you say something, then mean it; do it or don’t say it. Growing up, it really bothered me if people would say things they were going to do and then never do it. I prided myself on being a woman of her word. Well, as I found out, pride can get you into trouble.

Standing there that day on the sidewalk outside the downtown Milwaukee abortion clinic I began thinking about what I had just said to this young woman being so rapidly escorted into the clinic. The nice sounding name for this particular abortion clinic was, “Women’s Health Center,” even though the baby’s health was in grave danger in this Center. The reality was each mother’s soul would be forever marked by the decision to destroy the life God had placed in her womb (Psalm 139:13-16[1]), and the child that God created would never fulfill the destiny He intended for him or her.

As a young person in high school my first encounter with the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision came through my friend at school. She never told me directly, but through another friend, I person-409127_1280.jpgfound out that she had an abortion. I didn’t know much about prenatal development, or abortion for that matter, but I sensed a dark foreboding when this informant told me. I felt sad for my friend. At that time I knew the church my family attended would have taken a strong stance against abortion and, therefore, I would have known it to be a major sin and very wrong. Because our family was devoted in our faith, I supposed this was the reason my friend never told me about it.

Now, here I stood some 17 years later, well informed about abortion and so convinced of the destruction upon the soul that I was willing to intervene and speak to the women headed for the clinic doors. I know that many women suffer the after-effects from abortion and walk through life with self contempt for having chosen this “medical option” to solve their immediate problem. The sad reality is that the medical establishment isn’t able to truly minister to the soul; only God can do that. And He is looking for Christians to extend His love and forgiveness to those needing it. This was my goal as a sidewalk counselor. The problem was, by the time they were on the sidewalk, with green-vested escorts around them, little could be said to stop the rapid push toward the clinic door.

Battle lines

The summer of 1992 in Milwaukee was a major Pro-Life summer. Being the largest city in Wisconsin, Milwaukee had eight abortion clinics in operation. That summer, with the help of the local Christian Radio & TV station, a group called “Missionaries to the Preborn” became well known in our county. Organized in 1990, they were committed to abolishing abortion. The mission was launched with such enthusiasm and zeal and it brought a broadly based coalition of people from various churches and diverse individuals to the cause. While motives in the hearts of people in any movement vary, for the most part, the focused goal and mission was to protect the lives of pre-born children in their mother’s womb; and to share viable options with the women involved. Like any new movement, with the variety of people involved, it became at times a mish-mash of experience, theology, and practice that at times clashed on the front lines. How to carry out this daunting task with unity was a constant struggle in the midst of our single objective and purpose to rescue of pre-born infants from death, and minister to their mother’s needs spiritually and physically. This needed to be a movement of God’s love expressed — yet misunderstanding and fear manifested itself in our actions at times. Gaining the mind of Christ (II Tim. 4:5) was a daily challenge in the midst of the brutal reality of abortion.

Many would liken our battle to that of Dr. Martin Luther King’s in the arena of civil rights; working toward liberty for all regardless of skin color.  He faced many challenges trying to convey God’s way of non-resistance in a world of violence and prejudice, often by civil authorities. So, like Dr. King, we too had to teach what Christ taught his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount; to love our enemies. This theology when put into practice proved to be a wonderful testimony of God’s grace, but it was not easily understood or played out in this raw and ugly environment. Emotions flared and it was difficult to portray righteous anger and loving grace in the many heated battles on these front lines.

It took months, even years, for this group to coalesce into an effective “ministry” out on the streets. Through it all, God taught us many lessons and after a few years a synergy developed that made for effective ministry. Our goal to minister was realized for the babies who were saved from death, the women who were in need of immediate help and later soul-healing after abortion. It was rewarding to hear the stories from the Mom’s who gave birth and the adoptive parents who were thankful to welcome these babies into their homes. In the end, six planned-parenthood-storefroof the eight clinics closed. Focusing on the remaining clinics became a more manageable task, allowing for more focused ministry to those in need.

Planned Parenthood vs. Pro-Lifers

We came to meet many wonderful people through this difficult battle for life.  At the height of this localized war, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, along with the two other remaining clinics, filed a federal lawsuit naming 51 people as conspirators/defendants in the complaint.  Some involved were people who had an effective ministry speaking to women; they faithfully stood on the sidewalks through very extreme weather conditions to offer their assistance. Some were preachers who would preach as people passed on the way to the clinic doors. The group of pastors was called, “ Pastor’s Emergency League” (PEL), following the name, example and efforts of German pastor, Dietrich Bonheoffer, who spoke out against the atrocities of the Nazi’s during World War II. Our friend, David Liebherr, founder of the Milwaukee area PEL and my husband were part of this group.  So when the lawsuit was filed, their names were included as defendants. Through this legal action we became acquainted with Attorney Patti Lyman and her associates.

The lawsuit allowed PEL to put on paper and verbalize what their mission actually was. At the time, the lawsuit seemed threatening, but it turned out to be beneficial in that it helped to clarify and establish the mission and purpose for our actions. With God nothing is wasted; as Paul wrote in Romans 8:28, “All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose”, we saw that happen.

Patti Lyman, and her husband Frank, became good friends to us. With the many proceedings involving this lawsuit, Patti often needed to travel from their home in Fairfax, VA to Milwaukee to handle legal matters for Dale and David and others. Dave and his wife, Karla, had eight children at this time, and the Lymans loved being a part of their family. Like Dale and me, they were unable to conceive children and while they did not pursue adoption as we did, they have been “parents” to many along the way. Patti has long been a defender of legal rights for those without a voice. In the end, the clinics lost their lawsuit and we gained legal standing with guidelines for being on the public sidewalks. Additionally, the proceedings provided a good avenue for the voice of the unborn to be heard.

Other Front Lines

During this time period Dale and I also became involved in attempting to deal with an adult porn outlet that had suddenly cropped up in a residential area near our home.  It seemed we were always involved in some type of battle… they seemed to be everywhere! Because of this, we were also pulled into the public media outlets and especially the aforementioned Christian Radio station, WVCY in Milwaukee. This station was very active in informing the public, especially the Christian base of listeners about what was happening locally and nationally concerning moral issues in our country.

The mid-nineties were a busy time for us. We were attempting to be a part of healing and hope in three areas of need. First, was our involvement in the prolife movement, second, we pioneered a new church in our suburb of West Allis and third, we were engaged in a battle against a porn store that had opened in a residential area of our community. Back then, even though pornography was available on the internet, the average person did not access porn on-line as is common now. This particular store not only sold “adult” material, but they also installed private viewing booths allowing patrons to view the videos while masturbating. This became a public health issue that we used to attempt to close the store down. With all of this on our plate, the adoption focus took a back seat for some months.

baby-718146__480Then in October of 1997, my friend at the radio station, who was an advocate for adoption, mentioned to me twin girls with special needs that needed adopting. I had told her that if I am going to become a stay-at-home Mom, I would prefer to adopt several children at once. This prompted Dale and me to seriously consider beginning the adoption process — and we did. As it turned out the twin girls were adopted by another family, but the circumstance were used by God to get our paperwork going to begin our adoption process.

Continue to next Chapter Domestic vs. International

[1] For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

Bread and Living

baguette-1144979_1280Upon my arrival the next morning to the place where I left my friend and her two children, I saw distraught faces and spats of blood everywhere on the white walls. What happened? I thought. Soon the story unfolded of the miserable night of torment between this destitute family and their invaders – mosquitoes!

Everywhere I looked, life was hard. This reality was to become more personal to me through my new friend, a woman my age, named Clementia.

Such Good Bread

One of the things that most foreigners love about Romania is their good crusty bread. What we would pay $3.-4. a loaf for in the United States would cost about thirty cents there, and it was baked fresh each morning.

Early on, during my stay with the children, we walked past a store in our village and they said, “Naan-cee, bune piane aici”, meaning there’s good bread here. At first glance, I wasn’t sure by the looks of the building if it was a government welfar20171107_122514 (2)e-type bread store or if the public could purchase there, but the children reassured me that their aunts and uncles bought bread there, so I went in. Inside, the plaster was cracked; missing pieces had fallen to the floor and had been swept up in a haphazard way, but the bread was so good!  I soon learned not to look so much at the structure housing the product, but to follow suit of the locals and simply enjoy what was available. I also learned to take my own bag along to the store to place the bread in, as one usually wasn’t provided. People simply slung the loaf under their arm and headed off. My habit of making a weekly trip to the grocery store in the U.S. didn’t work well here. I found myself going daily for fresh bread. With five of us to feed, bread was one of our beloved staples; and Uncle Costica provided eggs for us from his farm.

After several months of living with our children’s relatives, Dale returned from the U.S. and secured a house for the children and me. It was an upper flat on Aleea Strand across from a large park. The place was very nice by Romanian standards. It did have a refrigerator; however, it was an apartment sized under-the-counter type, so space was limited and the freezer was constantly icing up. While I had many adjustments to make to this type of living, the children enjoyed it in many ways. They felt it was like playing house and they made an adventure out of every day. I suppose this helped me to view it in that way too. I would wake up each day and pray, “Okay, Lord whatever you have for me today, help me at every turn.” Life was so different for me here, yet God helped me see His Hand in it all.

Some History

 We lived in the village of Itcani, which was a short bus ride from the major city of Suceava.  Located in the northeast region of Romania and bordered by Moldova and Ukraine, Itcani has many beautiful sights.  This region formerly known as Moldovia was home to Stephen the Great, ruler and protector of this area from 1457 to 1504. Now, living in post-communist Romania, and while enjoying its beauty, I slowly came to realize why its emotional landscape appeared as it did­­—gloomy.

I learned that in 1966, the communist dictator, Nicolae Ceaușescu, issued Decree 770 attempting to create a large nation of people for himself. He was Ceaucesceuselfishly motivated and used abortion in a different way than we in the West would. We implemented it as a means to decrease the population of undesirable children; he restricted it — not for godly reasons but rather to increase the population. He forbade abortion for all women unless they were over forty years old, or were already caring for four children. He banned all forms of contraception, completely. Ceausescu was looking to create a new nation of people, not unlike Adolph Hitler. By 1969, the country had a million babies more than the previous average. It was said that thousands of kindergartens were built overnight. Farmlands were confiscated and used collectively as farms for the government. People were warehoused into cities, living all together in huge concrete apartment buildings. Then, at the close of 1989, Ceaușescu and his wife, Elena, were assassinated by their own people on Christmas Day. This revolution brought Romania into a period of rebuilding as a free nation. But this was now a nation with poverty, and so many children (more than 100,000) were unwanted or born to families that simply did not have the means to care for them. The question then was, “What do we do with all of these orphaned children?”

I now understand much more of Romania’s history which explains the poor living conditions and the large number of orphaned children. (For further information, go to Isador Ruckel‘s article with video links or the History Channel’s Ceausescu’s Kids.)

There seemed to be sadness everywhere I looked in Romania. Most often it was my English that gave me away as being an American; even if I did not speak, the absence of lines in my face, soft uncracked hands, and optimistic spirit indicated that I was a foreigner. Many of the women my age looked 10 to 15 years older than me, simply because of the hard life they lived. My new friend, Clementia, was one of them.


One day, early in my stay, we went to the bank and saw a boy that looked familiar to me because of his crossed eyes; it was Silvu. He and his sister, Andrea, had been living at the Hand of Help Orphanage when we were visiting there the previous year. They were now living with their mother, Clementia, and life for them was difficult.  Because Silvu recognized our children, he came over to greet us. Silvu was an unforgettable boy.

Upon meeting his mother, Clementia, I immediately saw the pain in her eyes. Here she was — forty years old, yet looking very old with the strain of life heavy upon her. Amazingly, she was bilingual. She began to tell me her story. After listening to her, I told her that I deeply cared and wanted to be of help, somehow, and promised that I would come to see her later that week.

We met up, again, a few days later and she invited me to her apartment. Clementia was desperately in need of a job, but could not find one. She had spent nearly all she had to get the necessary surgery for Silvu’s eyes. Thankfully, Silvu’s situation was much improved, but in order to get the money needed for his surgery, she had to sell the house they had inherited from her parents. Now they were renting a borrowed apartment for $60.00 per month. She said they were desperate; they didn’t have the money to pay the rent, and she thought they might be put out on the street very soon.  They already had turned over all their furniture to the bank. They had prayed that morning before going to the bank, that God would help them — and miraculously, God had caused them to run into us.

I was able to give her some money, but she needed a job and other necessities. Clementia, well aware of the religious-social climate between us said to me, “I’m sorry, I am Orthodox”, as she received the money I gave her. Realizing that we were not Orthodox, she felt a need to apologize for receiving from us. As repentants —  those who believe in baptism after a person receives Christ as their Savior — there was an unwritten religious wall between us, which was well known in Romania. I told her not to worry, that God cared for her, the same as He does for all of us and that she simply needed to trust in Him for her future.

Clementia had prepared a wonderful little lunch for us, and as we talked about her situation, I began to share with her the Good News of gaining a personal relationship with our Heavenly Father through the sacrifice that Jesus Christ had made for her. She cried a lot. I told her that God will hear her prayers if she comes to Him through the blood of Christ himself. I further explained the Old Covenant requiring priests as mediators compared to the direct access believers now have under the New Covenant through Jesus Christ.

We continued, discussing what it meant to be born again, from the book of John, Chapter 3, and the wonder and privilege provided through Jesus to have our sins forgiven and to enter into a living relationship with Him! She fervently desired this, and so we prayed for her to repent of trusting in men instead of God, and to have her sins forgiven directly by Jesus Christ. When we finished talking she was overjoyed, her face shown as if she was a wealthy princess of a King.  She said, “You are my sister now!” “Yes, that’s right, we are a part of the same family…” I replied. Clementia and I continued our friendship during much of my time there.

When, finally, she did lose her borrowed apartment, our children’s uncle, Costica, allowed them to live in a house he had built that was not fully finished. They were simply glad to have a roof over their heads at night.

The day after they moved into Costica’s house, I went to visit them. Upon arrival, I saw blood spats all over the walls! Wondering what had happened, Clementia began to excitedly apologize. She said the mosquitoes were biting them all night and they had gotten little sleep, remaining awake most of the night killing the blood-sucking pests. I told her we’d go to the fabric store and buy some underskirt netting to thumbtack to the windows. And so we did.

It was a hot muggy day. Upon our return, she began to wash the walls and thumbtacked the fabric to the window frames. I knew about this process first-hand as I had to do the same thing to the place the children and I were living in. If we were ever going to open the windows at night to get some cool air in, we needed some sort of screen to keep the bugs out.

Clementia and I spent some months together visiting and meeting up to see each other at church. Her life grew busy trying to find work each day and mine was busy in my own way of simply learning how to live in this land, halfway around the world, awaiting the day when we could all go home to America.

(Photo credit: Pixabay)

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Curious Faces…

At about 10:30 a.m. we woke up to curious children outside our door wanting to know who had arrived from America.  Upon waking and realizing where I was, the memories of the van ride, only a few hours previous, haunted me.  But I quickly got off my bed to get dressed and see who the little voices were on the other side of the door.  Dale was already dressed, actually, I think he slept in his clothes – he would do that quite often.  Not me, I needed the softness of pajamas to really relax and sleep.  The blankets on the beds were the old olive-green, itchy, army-type and even with a sheet folded over the top they were still not comfortable.  Wow, did I have a lot of adjusting to do!

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