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Saturday, March 30, 2013

weekly menu

We didn't get Bountiful Baskets this week because all the site coordinators were gone for Easter, so I was forced to fend for myself at the grocery store.  After three different trips, I managed to get about 75% of what I needed.  So disappointing and annoying!  I'm so grateful for Bountiful Baskets making my shopping and meal planning so much easier.

Here's our menu for the week.  I know that what we have planned for Easter dinner might not seem "special" enough, but it's something that we all LOVE and I just couldn't think of anything better.  The pies are super yummy - I know because I licked the spatula after scooping all the pie filling out of the pot.  It's my right.  ;o)


Roasted veggie/lime rice/black bean burritos
Lemon icebox pie
Grilled cheese - yes, I know you don't need a recipe for grilled cheese, but if you're here because you're vegan, you should trust me when I tell you this - use Daiya havarti cheese and you'll die of yumminess!


Baked ziti

Ingredients:
1 jar pasta sauce
1 recipe “cheese” sauce (below)*
16 oz ziti (or other larger tube-shaped pasta)
2 cups shredded vegan mozzarella (if desired)
1/4 cup fresh minced parsley

Optional: mushrooms, bell peppers, or other veggies

For "cheese" sauce, blend the following ingredients in a food processor or blender
1 cup silken tofu (the shelf-stable, boxed kind - can be any texture)
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup dairy-free plain soy milk or almond milk
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
3 T. tahini
1 t. onion powder
1 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. salt, or to taste
2 T. corn starch

Directions:
Heat oven to 375.  Boil and drain ziti and dump into 9x13 casserole dish.  Pour in pasta sauce and stir to combine.  Pour cheese sauce evenly over the top of the pasta, and top with shredded cheese, and finally with parsley.  Cover with foil and bake for 35-45 minutes, until bubbly, removing foil for last 10 minutes of baking.

*I use this cheese sauce for lasagna and eggplant parmesan, too.  It’s yummy!


Tacos - we're using Yves soy crumbles.  We try not to eat too much soy, but we really like these crumbles for things like tacos and chili, and it's non-GMO soy.
Pizzas - we're using flatbread and will top them with peppers, veggie pepperoni, mushrooms, tomatoes, roasted red peppers, etc.

Cooking and swinging

Today the littles helped me with making two lemon icebox pies and some cookies for Easter.  The cookies were from a mix because I wanted something that would be easy for them to do.  They had a blast making them, and once they were cooled and frosted, they took two big plates of them over to a neighborhood nursing home.  After that, Curtis took them to the park for a little while, and Thalia was over the moon! It was her first time to go there.

Thalia was quite intent on managing the cookie scooper on her own

Maizie is waiting patiently for her turn

Baking pride!

Jack and Beck team up on the lime cookies

Beck's a pro!


Cora and Sofie arrange the vanilla wafers for the lemon icebox pies



Lemon icebox pie

Here's a short video of Thalia swinging at the park with a little help from some siblings.  I think she might have liked it.  ;o)



Monday, March 25, 2013

Joshua's email - 3/25


WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHOOO!

This week was pretty good!

Last Monday, we had another lesson with T and J C.  It was SOOOOO awesome seeing them at church on Sunday.  They seriously look like members of the church already and it makes me so excited to see them take steps like that! We taught them the Plan of Salvation with another member, and it went really well.  The Plan of Salvation answered a TON of questions that they had, and they said that it seemed like everything we taught was what they already believed was true!  So we were just refreshing their memory. ;)  J is almost through 2 Nephi! Tim is in 1 Nephi, but he's really starting to enjoy the Book of Mormon, and it's become insanely sincere and open since we've resolved his small concerns.

Tuesday I went on exchanges with Elder F in ***.  Elder H (the only other kid from Montana in the mission) went with Elder P to Elkhorn.  We had a pretty good exchange!  Elder H is AWESOME.

Wednesday we had another lesson with the C family!  We re-taught them the Restoration with emphasis on modern day prophets and how God still speaks to us today.  It was a really spiritual lesson, and we ended it by watching the shortened version of the Restoration movie.  I looooooooooooooooove the Cs! They'll be baptized soon. I know it. :)

Thursday was awesome too!  We went to a member family's home for dinner. Half the family is kind of less active, but the mom/wife is very active.  The parents are trying to prepare to go to the temple... [Tana's note - I deleted some personal info.]

Afterwards, we went to teach a lesson to a couple in their 50s or so.  Their names are R and J.  I didn't really know what to expect by visiting them, because Elder P said that they had read the entire Book of Mormon.  I thought it might be possible they had bent the truth a little bit, but I was excited to see if they had actually read it or not.  We went with the Bishop's wife, who reminds me a ton of Sister H!!! She was the perfect person to have come with us!!!  We walked in, and I talked with R and J for a little bit and we got to know them really well.  They're probably one of the most humble people I've met on my mission!  J is anhealthcare administrator, so he's really busy, and on top of that, he has a similar position to the bishop in his own church!  We talked to them about the Book of Mormon and resolved some concerns they had.  It turns out they have both read the ENTIRE Book of Mormon within the last 2 months or so.  They both LOVED 3 Nephi, and they both agreed that Ether 12 was one of their favorite chapters in the entire book.  Their concerns were very few and small, and the things they liked from the Book of Mormon far outweighed those concerns.  We talked about how the Book of Mormon is either entirely true or it's not.  It either had to have been written by just another man, or it was truly written and translated by prophets of God.  We shared 2 Nephi 33:10-11, and I think that really hit home with them.  We asked them if they believed that the Book of Mormon was God's word, and they both agreed that it was.  I think they'll be baptized soon too.  I'm not sure when, but they were incredibly spiritual and humble.  They admired Elder P's testimony of the Atonement, and they told us that we were the first people they've ever met that they feel equal to in terms of spirituality.  That was pretty cool too. We quickly gained a great love for R and J, and we'll be seeing them again soon! :)

Friday, Saturday and Sunday we did a little bit of tracting.  We visited some member families for dinner appointments and they were wayyyyyyyy cool too! I love the H family!  Brother H was a hippie back in the 70s and he traveled by hitchiking and by hopping railroad cars all over the country, including Montana! Hahaha!  But anyway, we found 7 new investigators (standard of excellence is 3 ;) ) this week, and we taught the entire Restoration to a guy named T on his doorstep.  That was pretty sweet.  We also caught S and her boyfriend again! So we taught about the Atonement and how we can know if the Book of Mormon is true.  This whole week has been awesome, and we got to teach lots of lessons! Hopefully we'll have some more solid baptismal dates set soon!

Anyway, that's pretty much everything that happened this week! I love you all and hope everything is going well!!!

Love

Elder Whicker!


Saturday, March 23, 2013

weekly menu

Here's our menu for a week.  I didn't get a chance to make the rice noodle salad last week because I didn't get home from Billings in time, so I moved it to Sunday this week (the recipe appears in last week's entry).  I also picked a couple of options for Thursday because I don't know if I'll have time to make the cauliflower pizza, but if I do, that's what I'll make.  Otherwise it's Amy's chili out of a can.  ;o)

Sweet potato curry with spinach and chickpeas
Asparagus-potato soup with dill (I will probably add some cashew cream or soymilk to this)
Cauliflower pizza crust

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Thalia's first day of school

I just got home from taking Thalia to school.  As always, I have mixed emotions about first days of school.  I miss homeschooling and will always think of myself as a homeschooler at heart, but for the time being, this feels like the right path for us to be on.

As I said in a previous post, we had no intention of putting Thalia in school this soon and had planned to wait until fall for her to start.  But when we saw how well she did in her school in China, it made us re-think our plans.  We didn't want for her to lose the skills that she had already developed, and a big part of that was being able to participate in group activities, sit at her desk, and do the whole school "routine."  We worried that it would be a huge adjustment later on, rather than a smaller one now.  I feel good about it, but we're always willing to reassess if things don't seem like they're going well.  For now, even before an IEP is in place, she'll be with her regular ed class for homeroom, art, music, PE, library, and that kind of thing.  She'll be in the special ed room for the other subjects.  We'll worry about how to get a greater percentage of her day mainstreamed when she starts 3rd grade in the fall, but with so little of the school year left, our thinking is that it will just give her time to get settled, get more comfortable with English, and give the rest of us more of an idea of what she's able to do and what we need to work on.  I think she's in good hands.  :o)

Thalia with her 15 pound backpack she insisted on carrying herself

Thalia and Mrs. K






Monday, March 18, 2013

Joshua's email - 3/18/13


Hello!

Elkhorn has been awesome!  I LOVE Elder P!!!! Dang!!! He's from a tiny town in Oregon, and grew up on a farm.  So he's a hardworking BOSS, and we get along really really well.  We laugh a lot and we both teach together really well, so that's good!  Even though I've been pretty lucky with good companions, he's definitely my favorite companion that I've had so far!

Elder P and I both DESTROYED our week's goals for this past week!  We doubled our goals, so that was really cool too see.  I know it's not about the numbers, but we were really glad to have so many lessons this past week.  We found three new investigators, so that was pretty cool.  One of the investigators, T, has a member friend who is in the military and currently deployed, but he'll be back in a month or so.  We're really hoping we can start working with T! He's very solid, and he's got a family, so that would be SWEET if we can start teaching all of them!

We met a bunch of partmember and less active families last week, and we're beginning to teach a couple of them, so that's AWESOME!!  I already love all of the people I've met here so far, so that's really good! The ward is really supportive of the missionaries!  Our ward mission leader is the bishops son, who returned from a mission in Brazil a few years ago.  He's HILARIOUS, and he's really helpful.

 Elder P and his last companion got a referral for a couple named J and T, so they started teaching them a couple weeks ago!  We hit a bump in the road with them a few days ago, but they're still progressing.  T was starting to think that becoming a member wasn't right for him.  J, on the other hand, has begun reading the Book of Mormon and has prayed about it.  She says that she's received an answer to know that it's true.  DANG!!!  So we talked to them about faith from Alma 32, and they decided we could keep meeting with them.  THANK GOODNESS!  They came to church yesterday and that was SWEET!! It made me want to cry seeing them dressed up at church! They looked like they've been members their entire lives!!! They're going to be baptized very soon!!! I wish you all could meet them because they are the most humble, loving, kindest people I've ever met in my entire life!!!!

That's pretty much all that happened this week.  We had a very interesting lesson with a former investigator named M.  You'll have to ask my mom about it if you want to hear about it, because I'd rather not email it out to everyone.  Hahahahahaha... We'll just say that lessons like that don't happen every day here in Wisconsin....

I LOVE YOU ALL!!! Email or write me if you get a chance! I love getting mail!  And thank you for all the support!

Love,

Elder Whicker


Sunday, March 17, 2013

weekly menu

I think I'm finally back on track with our menus for each week.  Now that everything has settled down since my mom's passing and our trip, I think I can handle this again.  :o)

Orange-roasted tofu and asparagus

Crock pot chile verde "pork" tacos (serves 6)

4 cups Butler's soy curls, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes and drained
1 onions, minced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 green pepper, finely chopped
2-3 tomatillos, husked and chopped
1 jalapeƱo, seeded and chopped
1 16-ounce jar green salsa
1 4-ounce can green chilies
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 tsp cumin

Dump all ingredients into crock pot, stir.  Cook on low 6-8 hours.  Serve with corn tortillas, shredded lettuce, sour cream, guacamole, etc.

Rice noodle with grapefruit-Sriracha sauce (I'm adding avocado and shredded cabbage)

Veggie and white bean curry - this is a variation on a recurring theme in our house.  For about 6 people, I use a can of coconut milk, a couple of tablespoons of curry paste, a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar, veggies, and a protein (usually tofu, but in this case, beans).  I heat it all up and serve it over rice.

Maizie's 11th birthday

Maizie's actual birthday is on the 19th, but following our family tradition of celebrating on Sundays (because everyone's home!), we celebrated today.  She'll be going out to dinner with Curtis and me on Friday, and she also gets to skip school on Tuesday and go to Billings with us when I take Jonah and Ethan to the orthodontist and Thalia to the pediatric dentist.

Maizie's favorite meal is mushroom stroganoff, so that's what we had for lunch, along with fruit salad, green salad and rolls.  Zoe made a funfetti cake for dessert.  Maizie got some cash from her grandpas, a church outfit, a puzzle, and her favorite - a cell phone!  Before anyone jumps down my throat for giving an 11-year-old a cell phone, I have 2 things to say:  1) Maizie is among the most mature, responsible and helpful children in our family, and 2) this is Joshua's line, which we are paying for anyway while he's on his mission.  I always cringe when I see young kids with cell phones, but we know that Maizie will act responsibly with hers and that she can be trusted with it.

Maizie has grown into such an amazing young woman from the 8.5 month old that joined our family 10+ years ago.  She is smart, talented, funny, honest, trustworthy, a hard worker, and someone who tries her best in all that she does.  She always tries to include others and make them feel special, and is great at seeing the good in others.  She is a wonderful example to everyone in our family.

Maizie at 4 months

11!

A card from Grandpa W.

One day Ethan will be sorry for making this face in every picture we have of him.  Like on the day of his wedding reception.  ;o)

Thalia's going to think every Sunday is a birthday since her "birthday" was last week, Maizie's was today, and we'll celebrate Cora's in two weeks! 
Loundia and Lily

A new dress and sweater for church!

Sweet Maizie :o)

Her reaction when she realized she was getting a phone! 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Prom 2013

Today was Zoe's last prom ever. Sniff. It's hard to believe she'll be graduating in a couple of months! I honestly don't know where the time went or how it's possible that she's a senior who'll be starting college in the fall. My first baby girl isn't a baby anymore. :o(

This is the coolest "corsage" she's ever had.  Love it!

Zoe and her date.  Check out the shoes with the huge platform heels!

The hair

I don't look so cute, but I posted this so you can see the height difference.  We are the same height, so the difference is all thanks to those red shoes of death!  

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Video: meeting Thalia for the first time

Here's a video of us meeting Thalia for the first time.  Lots of crying babies in the background, but definitely a special and fun day!


Monday, March 11, 2013

Joshua's email - 3/11/13


This week has been CRAZY! Dang!  I'm having a hard time remembering everything that happened this past week, but I'll do my best. :p

Last Monday, we had to take the Oak Creek elders all over the place because the sisters had to take their van (we call it the fun bus!).  We played volleyball for a couple hours with the zone, and we went shopping at Woodmans, the BEST GROCERY STORE ON EARTH!  I love that place! I spent $45 so I'd be loaded up on all the food I need for the next few weeks!  We also went to GNC, where Elder A and I talked to a HUGE bodybuilder. He actually just got back from his second competition.  His neck was the size of my waist!!!!! We talked to him about supplements, and he talked Elder A into buying $90 worth of supplements.... Hahahaha

On Tuesday, we had Zone Training Meeting.  Elder A got SMACKED DOWN by one of the sisters... HAHAHAHA it was hilarious!  Someone asked if we should invite people to read the Book of Mormon from the VERY beginning (including the testimonies) or if we should invite them to begin from 1 Nephi 1.  Elder A gave a really profound answer about how he thinks that 1. You should follow the Spirit, but 2. Generally, you want to start them in 1 Nephi 1, because that way they'll gain their own desire to continue reading, and the actual chapters in the Book of Mormon is what will convert, the testimonies are supplemental.  A particular sister in the zone then stood up and replied, "On page 110 of Preach My Gospel, it specifically says we should invite them to read from the very beginning, including the testimonies!"  She stated this in a bible-bashing manner, so the missionaries were very taken back by it and Elder A was stunned.  Honestly, neither of the answers were wrong, but it was just funny to see how heated the discussion became.  Elder A then stood up and jokingly said, "Well of the small amount that I HAVE read from Preach My Gospel, I think it suggests that all of the information can and should be adjusted to the needs of the investigator."  Everyone found that to be pretty funny, and it sort of broke the fire between them, so I think it was good.  Hahahaha, I honestly thought it was pretty hilarious though, and I had to share that!

We had a couple appointments planned for after ZTM, but they had to be cancelled because we made it back from the meeting late. :(  We're still working with D and C though, and hopefully they can be taught soon.

We had a lesson with D and with a member, and it seems like we'll be needing to work with D a little more to help him gain a testimony.  We were talking about recognizing and understanding revelation from the Spirit, and he told us that he believed we were called by God through a prophet.  His exact words were, "I know that you guys are telling the truth because the Spirit just literally exudes from you guys.  I asked him why he felt he was lead to us (the missionaries) a couple weeks ago and then he replied, "well I feel like God lead me to you guys to help you!"  He said it jokingly, but we agreed that he was most likely being serious.  He talks about some "spiritual experiences" he's had back in his heroine days, and so he feels pretty special that he's been so close to God.  So we'll have to work with him and see what we can do.  His mom still seems very very solid though.  She's currently on vacation, and she took the Book of Mormon with her so that she could read it!

Anyway, that's about it for this week.  Other than that, I got a phone call from President Jones on Saturday night.  I got emergency transferred to Elkhorn because a couple missionaries decided to go home a little early.  So I'm no longer with Elder A!  I loved that kid!  But I'm now with Elder P! A farm kid from a tiny town in Oregon.  He's JACKED!!! We have a lot in common, so we're really excited and we're ready to work HARD.  I've only been here 16 hours so far, and I can already tell I'm going to LOVE IT! and the ward is AWESOME!!!!~  I'll give you more on Elkhorn next week though!!!!

Love you all, and talk to you soon!  We have permission from the First Presidency to email people outside of our families now, so feel free to email me if you want!!

joshua.whicker@myldsmail.net

Elder Whicker

Elder G (first companion), Joshua, Elder C from Miles City!


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Thalia's "birthday"

I have made no secret about the irritation and sadness I felt over the fact that our former agency sat on our dossier for two months before getting it logged in.  Completing our adoption in November would have meant Thalia would have been home for Thanksgiving, for Christmas, and for her 8th birthday in January.  Most importantly to me, she would have met my mom.  It's hard for me to think about how close we came.  I know that my mom can see Thalia and knows her, but I would love to have had some pictures of the two of them and to know that they'd seen each other and laughed and hugged together.  It makes me so sad that this opportunity didn't come.  I'm trying to be forgiving and not let anger fester in my heart, but it hurts, hurts, hurts.

I can't do anything about that, or Christmas or Thanksgiving, but I decided that by golly, we were going to celebrate her birthday.  I wasn't going to let that be stolen from us.  It was simply postponed by 8 weeks.  :o)  I give you - the birthday photos!











The miracle of Thalia

I have so many thoughts floating around in my mind about this whole experience, but mostly I am consumed with gratitude.  I don't even know how to put into words how incredible Thalia is, and beyond that, how - what's the word?  Cozy? Complete? Content? - our family has already grown to be with her in it.

The flights (three of them!) and two-hour drive home, as miserable as they were, were about as perfect as they could have been.  Thalia played with the iPad most of the time, but also watched a little TV, ate and slept.  She didn't fuss or get out of her seat.  She seemed perfectly content just to be with us.  She was amazing.

As I mentioned in a previous post, we were met at the airport by a couple of reporters, as well as my dad and some friends.  Despite being awake almost continuously for 30 hours, Thalia kicked into performance mode and melted everyone's hearts.  As we were coming down the escalator, she waved with her arm and shouted, "Hello!" to everyone in the baggage claim area.  :o)  She grinned for the cameras, gave hugs all around, and played with my friend's son, who also has Down syndrome, as if they were lifelong friends.  It was as if she knew all those people were waiting there for her.

Once we got home, as I predicted, she was mauled by her siblings and cousin.  She ate it up!  They showed her everything - the kitchen, the bathrooms, the bedrooms, the dog, the cats - you name it.  I worried they would overwhelm her but she seemed to take it all in stride.  We stopped the "meet and greet" long enough to watch the news report on the 10:00 news, talked for a bit, had family prayer, and then put everyone in bed.  We heard her really cry for the first time that night when she woke up needing to go to the bathroom, but she went right back to sleep right afterward.

Since then, our days have been filled with her giggles (and occasional chastisements accompanied by finger waggling), and her siblings, teens included, have continued to follow her around like lovesick puppies.  Several of them have come to me separately with the same statement:  "Mom, I love Thalia."  Indeed, she is easy to love.

It's true that once the novelty wears off and she's no longer everyone's golden girl, she'll occasionally get an earful when she crosses someone's path.  But I can already sense that there's something different about this adoption than our previous ones.  Our kids, even the younger ones, seem to understand that Thalia is special.  Not just in the sense that there are things she can't do and may never be able to do, but also because they get that she is most definitely supposed to be a part of this family, and because they perceive that somehow, she is closer to God than the rest of us.  The jealousy that has been evident  in the language and behavior of some of the "old" kids during the adoption of "new" kids is simply absent this time around.  Everyone seems to understand that we all need to work together to make this family the best that it can be for our newest member.  It's like someone has bumped us up to a higher spiritual plane.  I don't know how else to describe it.

The house is messier than usual, but the feelings of peace and harmony have increased dramatically.  I can't get too upset over finding toys in the living room (a big no-no!) when those toys are surrounded by 6 or 7 children playing happily and cooperatively and without the usual bossiness or bickering over who's doing what.  I can't get too bent out of shape when the Friday night bedtime of 10:00 gets pushed back to 11:00 because the kids are putting on their own version of "So You Think You Can Dance."  I can't be tempted to throw up my hands and tell Curtis the kids are all his when they've kept me entertained and laughing with their activities, most of which are centered around Thalia and her abilities.  I love seeing my teens jostling for her attention and playing with her and teasing her and taking her on little outings.  It all almost seems too perfect.

My natural tendency as a pessimist would be to look at this situation and say, "Well, this is the honeymoon period, and we all know what happens when they end - and it ain't pretty."  But I know that this time it's different, that this is our new normal, and it's OK for me to rejoice in it and not be waiting for the other shoe to drop.  We've had a hard, hard road to walk over the last few months.  There have been many changes, some positive but still stressful, and some really difficult.  Losing my mom was and is SO hard.  Our oldest daughter is struggling in ways that we worry over constantly.  We have big changes happening within our business.  We said goodbye to our oldest son as he went off to serve a two-year mission.  These things weigh on our minds, but Thalia is like a soothing balm.  I feel like God is telling us, "I can't take away all the things that trouble you, but I have given you something to help you enjoy your time while you're schooled in patience and your faith is tried."  I truly feel happier than I have in ages, and I consider myself a reasonably happy person to begin with.  I feel joy, and it's awesome.  :o)  This is the beginning of the fulfillment of the blessing I received many months ago in which I was promised that Thalia would bless our lives in ways we couldn't even imagine.  I was also told that she wouldn't be plagued by the attachment and grief issues that have affected some of our other children to various degrees.  I was told she would be a delight, and she absolutely is.  She's a delight with an occasional attitude, but a delight nonetheless.  ;o)

I'm so grateful that God brought us all together.  I had no idea what we were missing.


Our 15 minutes

When we arrived at the Billings airport on Wednesday, we were met by a reporter from KULR 8 News and another from the Billings Gazette.  Even though we'd been up for about 30 hours and at least *I* looked it, we answered their questions and tried to sound as chipper as we could.

Here's a link to the Billings Gazette article, "Miles City Family Adds 13th Child with Adoption of Chinese Girl."

And here's a link to the KULR 8 News story, "Girl with Down Syndrome Adopted from China."  (Click on "watch the video.")

There were a few errors in each, such as the KULR 8 reporter saying we had 13 kids already and were adding Thalia, and the newspaper story saying that kids in China end up in "insane asylums" at 16.  I was actually talking about the plight of Russian orphans at the time, and the fact that at age 4-6, they are moved from their fairly decent "baby houses" to adult mental institutions.  I said that most of these places were akin to the insane asylums in the US around the turn of the century - not good places.  She also reported that it takes 18-24 months to adopt a special needs child, when in reality it's 9-12.  I'm not sure where she got those numbers.

I was a little frustrated that certain parts were cut from the interviews, because the reason we agreed to do them was to help raise some awareness about special needs adoption, and about Down syndrome in particular.  We wanted people to be able to hear our story and think, "Hey, maybe I could do that, too!"  But they cut the parts where we talked about the financial help that's available, and the specifics about how to start.  I know they were thinking "human interest story," but we wanted it to be more practical.  Add to that the flack that we've gotten in the comments sections of both sites about why we didn't adopt from the US foster care program, and bleh...  I'm just not that excited about having done this.  Oh well. Live and learn.

For those who are curious about why we didn't adopt from foster care, here is my response:


1. We went where God led us, and that's really all there is to it.
2. We believe that God is "no respecter of persons;" He loves everyone equally and infinitely, and so should we. Although we like to think so, Americans don't hold a greater place in His heart. And James 1:27 is pretty clear about our responsibility to orphans.
3. The American foster care system, while admittedly flawed, is a thousand times better than any orphanage setting. Kids live in families, have food, clean water, clothing, medical and dental care, education, and ideally - love. Kids in orphanages in developing nations have few of those opportunities. In some of the worst places, they have virtually none.
4. Tagging onto number 3 above, it pains my heart that there are so many children in the US who suffer abuse and neglect and are removed from their homes of origin. I pray for them constantly. But I can't see what I've seen and not feel the need to prioritize a bit. Children in orphanages, especially the bad ones, are truly "the least of these." They need to be rescued from the circumstances they're in or chances are great that THEY WILL DIE. Those who survive live dismal, and short, lives because people with disabilities are not valued.
5. The several times we've inquired about children (especially hard-to-place sibling groups) in foster care, the usual response is no response, or we're told our family is too large. A friend of ours recently spent a year trying to find a foster care sibling group to adopt and had the same experiences - they were repeatedly ignored, turned down due to family size (their family is smaller than ours), or otherwise rejected. They finally did a private adoption recently. To reject larger families out-of-hand when there are so many kids who need homes is shameful, especially when those families tend to include experienced adoptive parents who are familiar with and accepting of the challenges that come with older child adoption.
6. And finally, my question to anyone who asks me why I haven't adopted foster children is, "How many have YOU adopted?" If the answer is none, you ain't got no business being critical of our decisions. ;) But really, point #1 is THE reason we've built our family the way we have.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Joshua's email - 3/4/13


Before I post Joshua's email, he has a new address.  Please email me or leave a comment and I will send it to you.  :o)

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Five down! I cannot believe that I'm almost at my six month mark! What the heck!!!!!!!

This week was pretty good! We had some good experiences and some not-so-good experiences... and then some more good experiences!

So we weren't left with many miles left for this month.  That means that Elder A and I had to walk everywhere for the remaining 4 days of the months.... WOOHOO! I was also feeling pretty frustrated because we weren't left with many people to teach or anything other than the *** family who lives 15 miles outside our area (we have permission to teach them).  But obviously without miles, we weren't able to visit them.  And, we had planned to have a lesson with them last Saturday, but that fell through due to their busy schedule.  Unfortunately they won't be ready for baptism and there's a few things we have to work with them, but hopefully they'll come around soon.

Anyway, like I said, I was feeling pretty frustrated.  Elder A and I have been talking about faith a lot lately, so I decided to test my faith a little bit.  So I got down on my knees and prayed and asked God to lead us to someone who we can teach.  That day, just as we were coming back to the apartment for the night, we ran into a 24 year old guy named D.  We set up a return appointment with him, and our first lesson was AWESOME.  He accepted a baptismal date for April 6th.  Elder A and I prayed again a few days later, asking Heavenly Father to lead us to at least one more person through our finding efforts we had planned for the day.  As we were walking in the cold a few days after a bad snow storm, we ran into a guy named D who was walking to work.  He seemed really interested in our message and he agreed to meet us at the church for a lesson (planned for tomorrow).  Not even five minutes later, we met a younger guy named C, who also agreed to let us come share our message with him! We've got a few investigators now, so I'm WAY JACKED!!! I know that Heavenly Father answers prayers! I know that he'll help us and guide us as we show our faith to him through our works and effort!

Other than that, not a whole lot happened this week.  We're still getting used to the area, and I'm trying to learn how to become an insane teacher like Elder A.  We were invited to a baptism for one of the kids in the ward, so we went to that.  There were some nonmembers there, so we talked to them.  We had an opportunity to help with a special blessing for a kid who is getting ready for baptism in the W. A. ward. (Some identifying info omitted here) ...the blessing was to help prepare him further for his baptism. That was way cool.  The priesthood is a great gift!

I love you all and I hope everything is AWESOME!!!!!!!!! If you're reading this, write me! I'd love to hear from you!

Elder Whicker

PS.  I forgot to mention in my email that we met with D for a second lesson, and his MOM came to the door.  He forgot about our appointment, so she called him for us.  He came over and Me, Elder A, and one of the ward mission leaders taught D and his MOM!!!! She agreed to read the Book of Mormon and she seems really really promising!! I'm wayyyyyy jacked!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 


Consulate appointment, safari park and pizza - a full day!

Today we went to our 8:30 consulate appointment with Thalia, and then our guide and driver dropped us off at the Chimelong Safari Park for the day. We had a blast! The park was beautiful, the weather was perfect, and the animals were amazing! The enclosures were very large and the animals appeared to have good care. It was incredible to see how many of each type of animal there were. It wasn't just a tiger or giraffe or elephant here and there, but whole herds of them! There were also babies being cared for by their parents, elephants trumpeting like crazy, and animals like lemurs and monkeys and large birds outside of their enclosures for all to see. It was so much fun. Thalia loved it, and we'd recommend it to anyone visiting Guangzhou. It was kind of pricey (200 yuan) but comparable to the San Diego Wild Animal Park and totally worth it. There's a 30 minute train ride included in the purchase price, and the rest of the park is explored on foot. You can also rent strollers for 20 yuan.



After the park, we went out for pizza at Calgary Stampede Pizza (which is right by our hotel) with the new friends we've met here. It was a great day!