Orphan Sunday Matters

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Today is Orphan Sunday. It may better to me than Christmas and Easter. To me it feels like Christmas and Easter wrapped up into one Sunday - doing what Jesus came to do by loving the motherless and fatherless of our world. Today was epic at our church, Newsong. It was our fourth Sunday as a local church, joining with the global church by linking arms on behalf of the orphans and vulnerable children of our world. Orphan Sunday was started several years ago by a pastor of a church in rural Zambia. He said "enough is enough" with their local orphan crisis and rightfully acknowledged that if the crisis was to change, the church would be the solution. Orphan Sunday is personal to us.

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Three years ago today, Brian and I were in Ethiopia meeting Abebayehu and Tarike for the first time. Later that same week, they legally became our children -  Judah Abebayehu and Addise Aster Tarike Diaz.

While we were in Ethiopia, our local church hosted our first Orphan Sunday. Our announcement was shared that day to squeals of praise in our church. See that epic video here...

http://vimeo.com/16811278

Today, I was buckets of tears again. Grateful for this profound privilege we have in parenting Judah and Addise. Grateful they are no longer orphans. Thankful that caring for vulnerable kids locally and globally has become a part of our culture at Newsong. Worshipful that God would allow us as his adopted sons and daughters to join him in the calling to love these children. One of my dear friends, Abe, preached on all these deep, simple theological truths. He also shared this video. Grab a handful of Kleenex. Adoption not only changes a child's life, it transforms an entire family...

http://youtu.be/B0N8P2JMbeo

I hope your church will host an Orphan Sunday next year (the first Sunday of November). It's truly changed our church as we've discovered the heart of God and follow as he leads.

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April L. Diaz

April has been a visionary activist her entire life. She has made it her mission to lead high performing teams and develop leaders in the margins of society while caring for our bodies, mind, and spirit. Secretly, she’s a mix of a total girly girl and a tomboy, and is still crazy about her high school sweetheart, Brian. Together, they co-parent 3 fabulous kiddos and live in Orange County, CA.

Women Who've Shaped Me

I started reading the book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg. I'm only a few chapters into the book, and I wish I would've written it. Besides the fact this book is a raging success, it's also filled with raging reality and truth, particularly that women's voices in leadership is desperately needed. I'm quite confident this blog will continue communicating stories, opportunities, and resources for women in leadership. This is only the beginning of my voice being heard and collecting the voices of strong, beautiful, broken, and gifted women. Let's be clear: no one is a self-made man...or woman. We all have a line of human beings to thank who've molded us into the leaders we are today. As a woman who's been leading for my entire life, I know women need each other. We need other women to push us, move us, mentor us, inspire us, kick our butts, soften our hearts, and pour into us to become the leaders we were created to be. Yes, I wouldn't be the leader I am today without some incredible men in my life (my husband at the top of that list!), but it's the women who've kept me in the game.

Therefore, today, I want to begin by acknowledging some of the women who've shaped my leadership. (I'm sure to get myself into trouble by surely missing a few.)

  • My mom and Grandma Getz - Mom, you removed barriers for me, looked into my soul and said "GO". Granny, if only you were born in another generation...but you were through me and you've never ceased to be my cheerleader and ever proud of me.
  • Jeanne Stevens, Rebecca Lujan Loveless and Kelly Petersen Skiles - You are my BABs, my girls. Jeanne, miraculously, you were my first boss in the church and continuously pushed me until I thought I would break. You didn't stop believing in me and caring about my character as much as you did my contribution. Becca, the prophetic strength of your leadership and tireless voice for women moves me beyond words. You have a faith and hope and love that astounds me. Kelly, my first partner in ministry and faithful encourager. Your leadership gifting and faithfulness to continual growth challenges me. Together, you three are my running partners and dearest friends. I'm so grateful to call you forever friends and leadership co-laborers.
  • Nancy Beach and Nancy Ortberg - When I began my formal leadership journey at the tender age of 18, you stood before me and showed me that being faithful to God's call sometimes meant more than your family. I watched your lives and wondered if I could be like you when I grew up. I've grown up and I'm ridiculously grateful you are both still present in my life, speaking into it now 17 years later. Thank you for pioneering ahead of my generation and reaching back to pull us along.
  • Mindy Caliguire - Ten years of investment is impossible to convey in a few lines. Your personal commitment to soul health and leadership strength has given me a compass for spiritual leadership. Countless coffee dates, cross-country phone calls, and endless prayers have brought me to a place of confidence, strength, and brokenness in my leadership.
  • Kara Powell - When I read your books in college, I had no idea that you'd become such a dear friend and mentor. You've taught me more about being a "working mom" than most anyone. Your executive leadership capacity, enormous mothering heart, and relentless pursuit of Jesus have deeply informed me. And you lead some of the best meetings in the world.
  • Erin Kim - My dear friend, you embody servant leadership in its purest form. You love the ones our God cares most about - orphans - and compellingly invite us into the grand adventure of loving the orphan with you. Your life and leadership is chock full of authenticity, authority, humility, and reckless obedience.
  • Women staff at Newsong Church - Forever it's been my dream to serve alongside fantastically strong women in leading God's people. Never has there been a day where that's been truer than today. Julie, Rehana, and Liz - you spearhead the way for a generation of women throughout our community. You are so very good.

Last, but certainly not least: Addise Aster Tarike Diaz. You've shaped me, my daughter, in every way, everyday. Even at 3 years old, you are clearly a strong, strong leader. I lead so one day you can lead with less limitations, restrictions, prejudices, and injustices. I lead so you can see an obedient momma who's committed to the calling God's placed in my life. I lead so you will see modeled that developing the gifts God has created you with is so very important. I lead so you know you can lead, too.

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Women, we need each other to lead in the ways God's called us to. There's enough societal - and even religious - pressure not to lead. But we must. We must lean into the divine callings God's placed within us and not settle for anything less. May your list of women who've shaped you remind you that you are who you are because of God's people. And may you thank them today for depositing those leadership offerings into your soul.

 

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April L. Diaz

April has been a visionary activist her entire life. She has made it her mission to lead high performing teams and develop leaders in the margins of society while caring for our bodies, mind, and spirit. Secretly, she’s a mix of a total girly girl and a tomboy, and is still crazy about her high school sweetheart, Brian. Together, they co-parent 3 fabulous kiddos and live in Orange County, CA.

3 Year Referral-versary + Another Miracle

Today marked 3 years since we first saw Judah and Addise's faces for the first time. I revisited the three posts announcing the call, our referral and initial stories about Lil' A and Baby T...they're still riveting. Mostly, I think it's because I can't believe this miracle we get to live.

There are a few things I've learned since first seeing Lil' A and Baby T's faces.

  1. It really is possible to fall in love at first sight. We loved them - no matter what! - from the moment we laid eyes on them. They filled our hearts.
  2. God's story is always better than the story I'd write. We experienced our share of setbacks, bumps, and turmoil along the way - from infertility to extended adoption to surprise pregnancy - we've lived a crazy story. But in hindsight I'm so grateful for every, single part of our story. 
  3. The miracle is always worth it. I wish miracles came neatly packaged and via happy-go-lucky means but that's rarely the case. Miracles nearly always come after a lot of pain and challenge. That's what makes them miraculous. We experienced another miracle this weekend (SEE STORY BELOW!), and even in the funk of it all I wish for another way. Sometimes I don't even want the miracle. I want the easy way. Yet, at the end of the day, I want my life - our lives - to be a miracle story. A story that only God could write. A story that has the supernatural fingerprints of God all over it. A life that I could never create even in my wildest dreams. I want a miraculous life but I now know what that means.


On that divine morning on August 16, 2010, Brian and I opened our emails and saw these two littles ones who would become our own. Bone of our bones. Flesh of our flesh.






ANOTHER MIRACULOUS STORY. Fast forward to today. The final bit of paperwork in our 3.5 year adoption process was re-doing their social security cards. You see, when Judah and Addise's adoption was completed, they entered the U.S as American citizens under the names Abebayehu Brian Diaz and Tarike Brian Diaz. Because of tax and medical purposes we had to (nearly immediately) get their social security cards under those names. We were assured that when we did their adoption re-finalization in court that we could simply do a name change for their social security cards. During the court re-finalization process, we legally changed their names to Judah Abebayehu Diaz and Addise Aster Tarike Diaz. Their California birth certificates prove it.

Simple right? Ya right.

Today we finally made time for me to go back to the Social Security office with the proper paperwork (1 inch thick folder, mind you). I waited for B3 to be called for over an hour and a half. Finally, my number was called and I confidently stepped to my slotted plexiglass window and said why I was there. I gave the lady Judah's paperwork and she went to work. All seemed well, until she got to Addise's paperwork. She saw one line in her re-finalization paperwork:

Name Before Adoption: Tarike Tinno 

Name After Adoption:  Addise Aster Tarike Diaz

The Social Security clerk saw a missing link between her birth name, her citizenship name, and her re-finalization name. There was missing paperwork, as in NO legal U.S. paperwork with her birth name on it (the same was true for Judah but she missed it). She explained the problem and my anxiety spiked. I calmly tried to explain that no such paperwork existed. I tried to explain the Ethiopian system, the U.S. protocol, the required information in the re-finalization process.

She wouldn't budge. She offered to bring over a supervisor to address the issue. I readily accepted. As the supervisor came over, desperate prayers began. I knew

WHAT THEY WERE ASKING FOR DOESN'T EXIST. 

THERE'S NO U.S DOCUMENTATION OF ADDISE'S BIRTH NAME.

I shared that with the supervisor. We went back and forth. Emotion started rising. The supervisor offered for another supervisor to come. I accepted. I went back to my seat in the giant waiting room and began panicking. Immediately, I texted Brian who was wondering what was taking so long. I pleaded for him to pray. Then, I began texting some prayer warriors. I tried to communicate the roadblock quickly, simply, and as desperately as I knew how. Within minutes prayers, Scripture references, and simple "PRAYING NOW" texts flooded my phone.

I sat in the waiting room as tears streamed down my face. Literally, sobbing with desperation and helplessness. Confused fellow-waiters stared at me, wondering what could cause that emotion while in the Social Security office.

As I waited for the second supervisor's assistance, one prayer intercessor texted:

Rest in the comfort of knowing that God knows their names. He knows! He knows and see your heart for Judah and Addise, April. Love and blessings over the angel at the Social Security office that is there to help you - one that needs to hear your family's story. Can't wait to hear the blessing that will come through this.

SOBBING. God knows their names. The very thing I was advocating for them, God knows. He could move mountains and make a way through incongruent bureaucratic policies to give our children their names. God knew their identity and I was their voice.

Twenty minutes later the supervisor was ready for me. Shaking I made my way with my thick paperwork folder to share our story with her. I cried the entire time. She listened. She rummaged through the paperwork. She firmly stated that "no one would put their stamp of approval on this case because there's a missing link between their names". She didn't even know what to recommend to remedy the situation. She confirmed we did the Social Security process and the re-finalization process correctly. She even affirmed that these were the same kids throughout all the name changes. She literally didn't know what to tell me. We were stuck.

Somewhere in the midst of that chaos, our angel appeared. I don't know what you imagine angels look like, but ours was an older, white man who could be easily mistaken as a wonderful ogre. He stood up from the next cubicle and simply said, "I just dealt with an Ethiopian case like this and there's no paperwork that exists for what we normally do. So we made an exception and gave them the cards." Hope.

The supervisor disappeared for a little while again. When she came back all I remember her saying is "we will do it for you". I literally burst into tears and muttered "thank you" over and over again. Then, she said, "the man in the next window will take care of everything for you".

Our ogre angel.

Only a few minutes later, the ogre angel was ready for me and he kindly waved me over to his plexiglass window. He warmly and light-heartedly asked for our paperwork, and through bloodshot eyes looked down and joked "what exactly would you like?" He took it all and started with Judah. A few minutes later he pulled a box of Kleenex out from under his wings (hehe), pushed them under the window, and gently said "they shouldn't put people like you through things like this". I blubbered out, "You're right! Thank you!"

After another 45-minutes at the ogre angel finished typing away at his computer and copying our mound of paperwork. Officially he said, "Your cards should arrive in the next week. Congratulations!" I stood up and tears spilled out again as I said, "You were our angel today. I can't say thank you enough! Today is our 3-year anniversary since we first saw their faces. Thank you. If I could hug you I would." He thrust his hand through the slot in the window and grabbed my hand with both his and he said, "Take care of those kids, okay?" I nodded and boldly said "Yes sir. We will."

I walked away. Exhausted. Relieved. Fully aware of the miracle we just experienced. I am fully confident that we would not have had that result were it not for the prayers of many who saw my texts, tweets, and Facebook status updates. There was every reason we would be stonewalled indefinitely from Judah and Addise's names being corrected.

God made a way. He knew their names. And this day, in the Social Security office, a miracle happened.

Celebrating all the goodness of today with ice cream - a real treat in our family!
How they've grown.


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April L. Diaz

April has been a visionary activist her entire life. She has made it her mission to lead high performing teams and develop leaders in the margins of society while caring for our bodies, mind, and spirit. Secretly, she’s a mix of a total girly girl and a tomboy, and is still crazy about her high school sweetheart, Brian. Together, they co-parent 3 fabulous kiddos and live in Orange County, CA.