Saturday, January 22, 2011

Facebook- and how you use it

Facebook. The mega-powered cultural giant of today. If Facebook were a nation, it would only have two or three countries larger than it. After all, it hosts some 500,000,000 (yeah, count the zeroes) people's public broadcast of what their life is like. The movie (which may or may not have taken a lot of liberties in its story telling) swept up 4 golden globes and is on track for a healthy crop of Oscars as well.

Long-time readers of the blog will know this: I fight just about any cultural element that doesn't seem moral or safe. For me, Facebook was no different. It had taken Myspace's title for "most addictive, popular, and dangerous site on the web" in my book. I would see news articles about people being killed  or fired  from their jobs or terrible stuff like that because of a stupid thing they posted on Facebook. It just didn't seem worth it at all.

But recently my view started tilting. For one, the movie made about Facebook (The Social Network)  prompted a lot of controversy about its truth to the real story of the real-life Mark Zuckerburg, main founder of Facebook. I looked at a couple interviews with him, and his intentions seemed genuine, if not a little too pro-internet tech savvy for my tastes. I personally feel like the internet should be an information source, not a surrogate social life. 

What finally turned the tables, though, was a personal thing. The Seminary for the Archdiocese of New York (an Archdiocese is a bunch of catholic churches looked after by a bishop) decided to send their young men in the early years of training for the priesthood (the first four out of eight) to a merged seminary with another Archdiocese in the area. This meant the guys I was friends with at my Cathedral Prep Weekends who were entering Seminary weren't going to be around where I go anymore next year, and it would be sketchy if we ever got to see each other. In the back of my mind, my knee-jerk reaction was "Well, you know what to do, get a Facebook." 

Uh, NO!

 The fact I was even thinking about it freaked me out. It was about the last thing I wanted to do, but it had benefits that seemed sound enough. I talked about it with the Prep guys. I talked with my parents. And I decided to get one. 

Now, right off the bat, I want to say that Facebook is not the black abyss of sin I thought it was :D. If you friend the right people and not the wrong ones, you can be in a faith-filled environment that is totally safe. I even made a page for my new orphan advocacy blog, The fact I can so easily communicate with anyone I want to as often as I want to is great. 

But at the same time, Facebook can quickly turn into a popularity trip and/or a risky place if you don't play your cards right. Anybody who knows you or knows someone who knows you will see that you're on Facebook. Now, you can make it so private that only the people you friend will see the information you put out (which I did). And you can be defined in some aspects by how many friends you have. The more you have the "cooler" you seem to some people. 

But for one, just friending anybody can open you up to some risky people or even people you think you know posting crude or inappropriate stuff. Keeping your friend circle your close personal friends or people that you feel safe around is a much smarter route. 

So is Facebook totally worth it and should you go on right now and make a profile? Eh, probably not. But is it an awesome way to connect with old friends or keep in touch with people and spread God's message? Absolutely. Anything can be accomplished when you let God, not culture, define what you make it.  

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Guest Post by Tori Hook

Sometimes I'm an angry person. Sometimes I get mad that other people don't care about orphans the way I do. That other people can see God's children suffering and not do anything about it. That other people don't think about orphans at least once every half hour.

I think, how dare they? How can they not understand that the world is in a state of emergency! God's children are hungry, suffering, dying! And they can just be content to live their average American lives?

It infuriates me. But I have to remind myself where my motivation comes from. I do not care for orphans because other people care. Lots of times, they don't. I do not care for orphans because it's easy. It most certainly is not. I do not care for orphans because it makes me feel good. Sometimes it does, but sometimes it hurts more than anything I've ever experienced to care that much.

I care for orphans because they're worth it. I care for orphans because I've been called to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves, to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. I've been called to rescue God's forgotten children. I care for orphans because God first cared for me. And he expects me to do unto others as He has done unto me. Not out of any selfish or angry motivation, but because He first loved us when we were lost, dirty, and afraid, we go and love others who are just as lost, just as dirty, and just as afraid as we once were. Love will always be more effective than anger.

Tori, resident blogger at Shining City Teens, went on her first mission trip in Summer of 2010 to Comas, Peru, where the embers of a love for orphan care were lit into a blazing fire. Tori is planning to go back again this summer, as well as hopefully visiting Maria's Big House of Hope in Luoyang, China, an orphan facility run by Christian organization, Show Hope. Tori also participates in the annual Reece's Rainbow Christmas Warrior Project, which hopes to raise $1,000 for each child who gets a warrior (Tori has raised over that every year). Tori's living testimony of passion for her calling from the Savior she loves is an awesome example of this blog's message to fight the cultural tide to live for Christ.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Little Memories

There are things you remember in life: the first time you road a two-wheeler without any help. The first time you swam. The first time you got behind the wheel of a car. Your Wedding Day. Your first little Child.

While I haven't experienced a lot of these yet (much to the comfort of my parents :D) Some stand out for me personally. I'll always remember the first time I met Addisu in Summer '09. That summer is chock full of swinging on swings with him, playing outside, and blowing lots and lots of bubbles. Camp Veritas '08, my first week away from home by myself, was a huge wing-spreader (figuratively speaking). I remember the first night I had my tiny little compact camera. After saving up for months, I had saved up the money I needed to buy a little camera. That got me pictures on lots of fun times. Getting my big camera this fall was pretty exciting too.

But none will ever top my mission/adoption trip this winter. There are days where I'll just sit and think about all of the fun times, all of the tough times, all of the great people we met, and just how amazing it all really was. God had His eye on us the whole time, and He kept us safe on our foreign adventure.

But my memories don't end at "Oh, that was nice." It goes so far beyond that. Even with my sheltered, split-second view of the way things are in Julia's orphanage, there were kids there that could break your heart. Some because they were just so strong and happy and healthy in the face of such hardship. Others because there was no one there that could really give them everything they needed.

I remember out wacky adventures with Valentin the Ukrainian driver on the highways out to the orphanage. I think I gained a new respect for my parent's moderate American driving. Things can be so different on the toher side of the world.

I still play back so much of it in my head. I remember  walking down the hallway to meet Julia for that first time, knowing she was there waiting for us. It still almost makes me cry watching the video from that amazing moment. I remember one my little buddy the bruiser escaped his crib room (which belonged to Julia as well) and came in to see what we were up to. I remember meeting Sonya. A little child so full of life and happiness. I am so bummed I forgot to take a picture with her. But that little picture I never imagined I'd take has made the rounds a little. It's showing up on numerous blogs. I feel like I'm accomplishing something.

Each night I pray God will show me how to work best for his glory with the talents I have. I long await that answer. But for now, I am happy to dwell on the memories.    

Monday, January 10, 2011

Slideshows and Happy Times!

Even though I posted it over on my family's adoption blog and most of you guys were kind enough to come from there to over here for a visit, I am really excited that I actually made and published a slideshow/ montage for Julia's adoption trip. I really feel like the trip is officially completely tied up and finished. To be honest, I almost felt like Frodo as he pens the last words of his section in Bilbo's journal :D

Anyway, here's the whole project if you haven't seen it already:

Our Journey to Julia from Caleb Lococo on Vimeo.

Ah, how I miss all of the adventure and wackiness of a ten day trip to a foreign country :D I think what I missed even more, though, was getting to be with all of these awesome adoption families who are just such a blast. getting to meet the Cornishes, the Winkles, Jill and her friend Debbie who were bringing home adorable Elijah, I really do miss all the fun we had one night at a restaurant. But luckily, we are made by a  God who will see us through the tough stuff. The first official Reece's Rainbow Family event is going to be held this summer up at Pathfinders Village in Cooperstown New York, a mere 2 1/2 hours away from where I live! I am SO pumped! I know this is really kind of early to expect people to know whether they can go or not, but is anybody interested? I CAN'T WAIT to hopefully meet some of you!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

2 weeks

Hey Everybody. Sorry posting has been molasses slow around here. Adjustment, school, and the inevitable "winter head cold" have kept me on a tight schedule. On top of that, my jet lag comes and goes in waves. One day, I fell awake and alive, to the point where I can stay up until midnight. Other days I wake up, think I can make it through the day and crash in bed at 8. Yeah.

It's been two weeks since Gotcha Day. It really feels crazy. Sometimes it feels like yesterday. Other days it feels like we've had Julia with us all along. Looking at pictures of our family before Julia came home feels really strange, like we weren't complete. Julia is adjusting really great as well. she will eat or drink just about anything, and in between meals she's content to play and take a nap.

Two weeks since Gotcha day also means two weeks since I left the orphanage, maybe for good. It means two weeks since I got to meet Sonya and Bruiser (my other orphanage buddy). I miss them. Even though I'm glad to be in America, in my own house, with my whole family,  my heart breaks for those two little souls. I so want to see them get families. The sad thing is that (through circumstances I won't disclose) Bruiser will never be adoptable. Sonya IS adoptable. She is so worth a family. She NEEDS a family. The countdown to her transfer is getting short. Too short. Like a couple months short. and it would break my family's heart to see her transferred.

James 1:27 says “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction” I can say from having been there and done that, that you do feel centered with God. Eric Ludy said in his YouTube video, "Depraved Indifference," that in Heaven there is a caste system (i.e. a social pyramid so to speak) that goes on the opposite set of standards that this world places value in. The ones who flaunt their talents and use them for fame are the ones that hit rock bottom. But the tiny, the helpless, and the poor, the humble of heart, those are the ones who are the top. I wish more people could see how true that really is. These kids are this world's hidden princes and princesses. And they need a home.

I would encourage you, if you haven't already, to watch "Depraved Indifference." It should be one of the first videos anyone who enters orphan ministry views.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

With Eyes wide Open

I'm back.

From Ukraine.

From helping out over at Hope4everychild.

And my eyes have never been wider.

I spent roughly two weeks in the country. Riding planes, trains and automobiles (no pun intended), photographing, blogging, exploring, loving...

and changing.

My time in the country was well-spent and fully-used. We started off where I left this blog, still in my home state, sitting in Albany Airport. As yesterpost will tell you, there was some pretty interesting airport art as well :D We took a 45 minute flight from NY to Philadelphia, and even though I was terrified at first (I hadn't flown in like 4 years) I found pretty quickly that the clouds make for some pretty awesome photos :D We got into Philly and got to our gate with just a little breather time to spare. We boarded our flight to Frankfurt and got settled for the 8 hour flight ahead. Between sleeping, eating, watching movies and reading the time went pretty quickly, even if its a while to sit. Things got dicey, however, when a blizzard slicked up the runways and we were stuck in Frankfurt for a mind-numbing 16 hours. I will say this: nothing teaches patience like roaming the same 100 sq. ft. for 16 hours :D We quickly boarded the three hour flight to the country's capitol, and after we filled out the paperwork to find our lost luggage, quickly boarded the train for Julia's district. After catching up on sleep and taking some pictures of the landscapes we passed, we arrived in the region and quickly arrived at our apartment.

After settling in, we headed over to the orphanage to have our first meeting with Julia. It was a very exciting and fulfilling night.

Going to Julia! from Caleb Lococo on Vimeo.

From there our days for about a week ran in a cycle: wake up nice and early, visit Julia, come back, use the afternoon for internet work, walk around the city at night. One day we had Julia for the afternoon (with a caretaker) so we could get her passport together, and two nights we visited with our friends the Winkles. I am eternally grateful for their friendship and awesome meal at their apartment on Christmas Eve. They made our visit much less lonely, and I pray so hard that they will be home with Yuri and Bohdan soon. Christmas Day was Gotcha day, and it was also the day my eyes opened. I had seen many families make the journey over the blogosphere. They all went over and got their child and then fell in love with another one and advocated their hearts out for these kids. And I had promised myself it wouldn't happen because it just couldn't.

But it happened anyway.

I hadn't had much opportunity to see Julia's room. But on Gotcha Day, they let us in. There were about 6 other kids in the room. One of them is also in Reece's Rainbow and doesn't have a family. As soon as I walked in. I saw her happy little smile not to far away from my little sister. I walked over and that was the end of it. she had me wrapped around my finger almost as fast as quickly as Julia had. Her name is Sonya.

                                          Absolutely, irresistibly cute!

Up until then, I hadn't realized the full gravity of this sad predicament known as institutionalization. I hadn't seen it's face in person. I hadn't felt its hands. I hadn't seen its smile, heard its laugh. But now I had. And my new mission, to see Sonya get the same chance as Julia, was born.

That night was a night full of laughter and adjustment. Julia was the perfect little playmate and dinner guest, and it was so exciting to have her finally with us.

The next day we got up and walked down to the local Catholic Church with Julia and came back to the apartment after we saw the church to get ready to leave. We got to visit with the Winkles one last time, and it was a sad goodbye indeed.

We said goodbye to our driver and facilitator and then took the train back to the capitol. We arrived at our second gorgeous apartment, and spent the next couple days making embassy visits, exploring the city, and going out to dinner with some other adopting families.

Our trip home was short and uneventful. We arrived to the smiles (and teary eyes) of our family. The drive home felt quick compared to our combined 16 hours of traveling previously. The last couple days has been adjustments and preparing to re-enter "real life."

There are so many more stories I could tell of living in another country for ten days. Of what it was like to see, smell, and hear the home of the orphan in one little niche of the world. But for now, I'll reflect, readjust, and remember.

(P.S.- WOW! 3 new followers! Thank you and welcome to the party! Thank you to all those who have followed faithfully for the past 6 months as well!)