Sunday, July 31, 2011


"We were meant to be Courageous, we were meant lead the way, we could be the generation, that finally breaks the chains......"

I've written about this topic before on this blog. I've written about it before on Speaking for the Silent. I even used it to introduce another topic.

Earlier today, I had the chance to talk to a friend who just returned from a mission trip to Peru. As expected, she totally loved it. But as we both talked about our experiences in missions and orphan care, we struck a common note that's rather sad to admit.

There seem to be few guys who are passionate about Missionary Work in today's teenage population.

I admit that I've always been a little bit ashamed of the fact that I'm more emotional than most teenage guys. That I am willing to make myself look a little silly if it means making a little kid's day. But as I've grown up, I've slowly begun to accept that it's who I am, like it or not.

To ironically counteract my opinion, my friend mentioned that the traits within myself I'm not necessarily sure of are what most girls in missionary work appreciate. A guy who's not afraid to get on the floor with the kids. Or get a little misty-eyed at the saddening conditions most Orphans live in. It was kinda reassuring, honestly.

Now don't get me wrong. I don't expect all guys to be tender-hearted and unafraid to show their emotions. Everybody's different. Different people react to something in their own way. But in the same way girls want to love on these kids for hours, I'd love to see guys who'd be willing to start a game of soccer with some of the boys. Teach them how to play catch. How to climb a tree. Guy stuff.

I just finished reading Focus on the Family President Jim Daly's autobiography, Finding Home. As a kid growing up with a VERY broken biological Father and multiple poor examples of what a father figure should be, he attributes many of his struggles as a child to that lacking. In the same way, I feel the lack of passion for Orphan Care among much of society could be contributed in part to the fact that there's a lack of young guys stepping up. We don't seem to be filling the shoes God expects us to as the Future Fathers of the world.

Recently, one of my favorite bands, Casting Crowns, did a song for the upcoming Christian Movie Courageous. The movie is centered around the theme of fatherhood and what it means to be a man of God. When he was discussing the inspiration behind the song, lead singer for Casting Crowns, Mark Hall, gave an interesting perspective. "When I go to the movies," he said, "it has to be epic. I'm a Braveheart/Lord of the Rings type guy. But after the movie ends, there's this weird thing that comes over us guys. We get up and stretch triumphantly, like we've done something incredible. And the thing I don't get is, all we've done is sat on our behinds for 2 1/2 hrs. and watched somebody else's adventure. But I think that it's the hero inside us wanting to come out. Because us guys today, we're passionate, but not about the stuff that matters."

Mark's statement is so true in so many ways. And in some ways, there are some guys stepping up to that ultimatum. Guys I meet at seminaries who are literally giving up the world's definition of "Happiness-" Wealth, no one to answer to, no rules to live by- for a life devoted by God are Courageous. There are other young men entering the Military Forces, Police, or Firefighters. But at the same time, what about the rest of us guys? Is the latest college football news really as important as kids dying of AIDS in Africa?

"Where are you men of courage? You were made for so much more. Let our hearts cry out like warriors, WE WILL SERVE THE LORD!"

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Ukraine Mentality

When I think back on the seven months since I came home from the Ukraine, I don't think I realized what I was getting myself into when I boarded a plane from Philadelphia Airport to Frankfurt Germany, and from Frankfurt onto Kiev, Ukraine. And even from there, to a six hour train ride to the region my little sister was in. The trip didn't just give me a new sense of the world itself, but of who I was and where my heart lies. I love the verse in scripture that reads "Amen I say to you, wherever your heart lies, there also will your treasure be." If that phrase is nearly as true as I believe it is, than I truly believe that special needs ministry, and maybe even administering more directly to the orphans in the Eastern Block, is part of my life's calling. But we'll see where that goes, or, more importantly, where God uses that to lead me.

I have often thought since about how much I'd love to travel again. To Ukraine, China, anywhere really. Travel, while it may completely throw you out of your comfort zone, honestly gives you a new spin on life, and even makes you learn new things about yourself.

I remember my days in Ukraine like a vividly colored, perfectly done photograph. I'd wake up in the queen-sized bed I had all to myself and see a shaft of light shining across me between the window and the heavy drapes. Me and Dad would have some quick breakfast and shower off military-speed before running down to the sidewalk corner to meet our driver. From there we would go for a couple hours to visit Julia, get some final papers done, etc. The rest of the day, we were usually left to our own devices, so we'd normally hang out in the apartment and watch some movies/update our blog and then at night, walk around the square a couple blocks away where Christmas festivities were in full swing. No matter what you say about Ukrainians, good or bad, one thing is certain: they now how to celebrate and make everything look beautiful for a special occasion. Some nights we even hung out with our good friends the Winkles, a fellow adoptive family. And as one friend of mine put it when describing her adoption trip (to the same region) your life essentially becomes real-life "Groundhog Day," the same routine over and over.

Some might say it was boring. The same schedule over and over again, in the dead of winter, when snow and ice covers EVERYTHING in a place like Ukraine. But there was something so different about living for 10 days in a completely foreign land with a completely foreign language and culture.

You appreciate the everyday frequencies.

Stopping in at McDonalds? A nice end to a day of hard work. Hanging out in the apartment? A quiet time of contemplation and relaxation. Strolling the city at night, albeit freezing your skin off? An experience. Getting to play with your little sister? A precious opportunity to bond and love. Things that might have seemed boring or even ticked you off if you were in your hometown with your usual schedule became an adventure.

Despite the fact I adore my peace, quiet, and predictable schedule, I am, at the same time, a person who wants to taste the unknown, blaze my own trail. Experiencing new places and people is exhilarating. But that interest can often mutate into Jealousy. That somebody else gets to go somewhere and I don't. That I'm stuck in my little neighborhood in middle-of-nowhere NY with my only real way to do anything extraordinary being the internet. But as I've thought about my time in Ukraine, I've come to realize my life wasn't any different. I was just in a different place with a different perspective. Maybe it would be useful to apply it here, even if the place itself is thousands of miles away.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Come Follow Me (Come Clean)

I would have loved to be in one of the Apostles' shoes at the moment Jesus called them. To feel so boldly drawn to someone that your life changed entirely in that one instant- those three words: "Come, Follow ME."

If only it were that easy today.

I've thought about what God's plan for my life might be since the time I was 9. I'm an overactive imagination, a busy thinker, however you so choose to say it. Bottom line, in my quiet moments, when I'm left to myself, I think. Maybe it feels like God is there listening to my thoughts, maybe it just cuts the quiet on some level. But I've just always thought about where I could be called.

Ever since I was 9, I've considered the possibility of becoming a Priest. I've had the fortune of always having holy and wise priests as my pastors my whole life. The thought of being a spiritual rock and foundation for the faith of many, while a large responsibility, also sounds SO exhilarating. It's something that I pray about and meditate on often- since it IS a life-long call from god, and not just a temporary hire job or something that can be forgotten. It is a binding, life-long commitment, just like marriage.

I remember the first time my mom said to me she'd though I'd make a good special ed teacher, I thought she was nuts. Me? Special Education? What connection would I have with Special Education in my life, ever??? Well, whether my mom is just a good judge of character or she's secretly telepathic, it's something I began to consider all on my own within the last few years. Discovering Reece's Rainbow is, in no small part, responsible for the yearnings in my heart that make me think that no matter what my call in life may or may not be, Special Needs WILL be part of it. Going to the RR get-together further proved for me that Special Needs care and advocating is like my second home- the people involved became like family, the calling felt natural. In the same way that my prayer and faith feel natural, spending time with the Pathfinders residents came second-nature. It just clicked. And I can't help but wonder, could God maybe, just maybe, have some special girl in store for me that would get that, that would feel that call to help those with Special Needs, through adoption and/or education too? I also love kids. Do the math here.

I couldn't consider my life ever moving on without Orphan Care either. If God has called me to something involved with Special Needs, so it is intertwined with the Orphans that are blessed with those Needs. I wonder how far will something like Speaking for the Silent take me before God says it's time to move on?

With all of these thoughts racing through my mind, I am left in a hazy cloud, wondering where I should go. On one hand, I know God is in control and I shouldn't lose the present dwelling on the future. But on the other hand, all I want is to Know. Know where I should be going, what I should be doing, so this feeling of where am I meant to be wasn't so apparent. Thank God for my dear friends like Taylor and Tori, who are also in the Special Needs world and are seeking out their life's work. And my dearest brothers at cathedral prep are more than supportive of a possible vocation in me. God has given me so many positive, and more importantly, Joyful experiences with both of these groups. Trying to piece together the puzzle of my life is tough. As christian singer Audrey Assad sings in her song "Come Clean,"

"I'm picking up the pieces, and I put them where they go- but where do they go? where do they go? Does anything in me know, where do they go?"

I know it will come in time, as God wills it. But for now, I'm left wondering when that call, that last piece of the puzzle will come. And all I can do is hope and pray that soon I'll hear Jesus walk up to me and tell me how best I can answer His invitation to "Come and Follow Me."

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Family Like No Other (Through Heaven's Eyes)


A month.


Oh well, I'm only human. And humans have crazy schedules. And part of that crazy schedule has brought me here today. But first, a little intro:

One of my favorite childhood movies that has stuck with me throughout the rest of my life is the smash-hit animated Musical, Prince of Egypt, which tells the story of Moses from his fateful delivery from slaughter at birth to his call from the Lord to set the Israelites free and the fruit of his labors. One of my favorite parts happens shortly after Moses runs away from Egypt and ends up in the desert valley of Midian. The high priest (and his future father-in-law) tells Moses to look at his life "through Heaven's Eyes," not by earthly standards, ever-changing and belittling as they can be.

I watched that scene during my 16 hour imprisonment wait in Frankfurt Airport this past December on my way to what would be a life-changing trip to the Ukraine. While I can't say it instantly gave me a boatload of patience to endure my wait, it did give me some perspective to live life on. In stead of being annoyed when my favorite munchy snack isn't in the snack drawer, I think of people in Africa who starve for days and don't have a snack drawer. Things of that nature.

For the longest time, I considered family people that were your family. Blood relatives. Brothers and sisters. If they were adopted, it was no different, but in most circumstances, the idea of Christian Unity, crossing all bonds, be it friendship or genetics, to form a family, was absent from my mind.Through  this experience, family in general took on new definitions. You didn't need related genes to have a family-like connection. In fact, friends could be the extra support, love, and care your immediate family needed.

Part of my insane schedule in the past month was camping for two weeks' vacation with my family. During that time, the first ever annual Reece's Rainbow Family Reunion would be happening at the campground. I was honestly unsure what to think of the "Family" part. I have and still do meet many beautiful people in the Reece's Rainbow Community over the internet. But the internet and relationships formed therein can really swing from one end of the pendulum to the other: they can either really work out or the can explode. I was honestly wondering which end the pendulum of fate would swing to this time.

I admit some anticipation and nervous emotions at the thought of meeting THE Andrea and Reece Roberts, founder and inspiration respecitvely for all of Reece's Rainbow's existence. But upon meeting them, I was utterly surprised to realize they were just a normal mother and son who had happened to be called to an Extraordinary task: advocating for those without a voice. Then came the other families. Some of them I had known over the internet. Some I had not. but the weird part was that I knew the parents, in stead of the kids. OK, so even if I did get along with the parents, what about the kids?

To say the least, I had some peculiar starting ground to begin from.

When the vans pulled up and the doors opened, I braced myself. I though to myself, there's a good possibility that a potential friendship with these kids is gonna sink like a torpedoed cruise ship. But maybe there's an outside chance I'll have a break through.

I could talk for hours about all the experiences and joys of that weekend. But I think I sum it all up when I say that we were all teary wrecks when goodbyes came around. And only in that group of people can I laugh when people are taking pictures of us looking like teary messes. If I learned one thing from the weekend, it was this: the love that those with a heart for special needs have for those they work with/for extends to all those around them. We accepted each other with open arms and hugs. All our pros, and all our cons. Our pasts were our pasts. The people we became, became all that mattered. If somebody needed to leave an event or take a breather, there were no grunts of annoyance or nasty comments. There was no judgement.

We were not perfect people, nor were we in a perfect world. But we loved each other through Heaven's Eyes, whether we knew it or not, and that made all the difference.

Reece's Rainbow Reunion 2011 Slideshow from Caleb Lococo on Vimeo.