This week we celebrated two very dynamic Christmas Concerts at our Battle Ground and Hazel Dell Campuses. Over 350 people joined us to ring in the Christmas season. The concerts were beautiful, but that’s never where God leaves our efforts, now is it? He’s always got a bigger purpose for our work and He speaks to hearts at moments we may not expect. I wanted to share the story below from a family that is quite new to our church, but have become quite important to our hearts. Enjoy!
God first showed up in my life 29 years ago. I was active in my youth group, so much so that at 15, I went on a mission trip to Mexico. It was a moving experience in so many ways. My faith had always been strong as a youth, but this mission would touch my life in ways I would never know and it would take years to come full circle.
While on the mission trip, we crossed the border into a small Mexican town every day. I volunteered in an orphanage, handing out toiletries and food. I played with the kids and helped clean up and repair the building and grounds. The children were so happy to be with people who cared for them and wanted to help make their lives better. But it was one little girl, named Isabella, would touch my heart in a way that I had never experienced.
Every morning, I was so excited to see my little Isabella. Despite the deplorable living conditions in the small town she was living in, her smile made the world a very beautiful place. She was always full of spunk and life, holding my hand non-stop and never leaving my side. At the end of the day, when I had to leave and go back to California, we would hug so tightly and rub noses.
When I arrived at the orphanage the last day, I was greeted by that precious smile; the tiny hand, and warm heart. We spent the day playing and laughing. We did not speak the same words, but our souls spoke the same language. At the end of the day, the children were told that we would be leaving for home the next day and not coming back. My heart broke. As we were getting ready to leave, Isabella grabbed my legs and held tight. I got on my knees and held her tightly. I told her that I loved her and that I would pray for her every day. I told her God would keep her safe and she was going to grow up and do amazing things. I told her she would always be in my heart.
That mission trip forever changed my life. I have never forgotten that little girl. Every once in a while, over the past few decades, she has randomly come up in conversation. An anecdote…a memory….until a day in 2007 when another orphaned girl changed my life forever.
I had always wanted to be a mother…meet prince charming and have some children. However, that was not to be for me, at least not the natural way. I was resigned to that and had come to terms with the fact that I was never going to be a mom. I embraced the children of my friends and family. My life was filled with more children that I could imagine, but I was still a little empty. I still had THOSE pangs. I always pushed them back and moved forward with my life. I thought this was God’s plan for me and I was ok with that.
Adoption had never crossed my mind as a path to parenthood. It wasn’t until I reconnected with a childhood friend, that adoption became a possibility. She had recently adopted a baby girl from China and we were planning a visit to meet her and catch up. It was after that meeting that the topic of adoption became a serious discussion. After much prayer and investigation, the decision was made to adopt a baby girl from China. It was a long, paperwork filled process and, after a 2 year wait and a trip halfway around the world, a beautiful 9 month old baby girl was placed in my arms. My lifelong dream had finally come true. God showed up in my life and had blessed me with a miracle. I was a mom.
Twenty nine years after one little orphaned girl had so touched my heart and soul with such love, another had filled it completely with the same. Two little girls, left alone in the world, had changed mine so immeasurably. God had planted a seed all those years ago to prepare me for the life He had planned for me now.
Tonight, as I sat with my beautiful six year old daughter, listening to the story of the creation and music celebrating our Savior, my soul was touched again. After the concert was over, my daughter looked at me and said, “Momma, my favorite part was the story of God. He made the earth and made it light, but then it went dark for a long time. But then, he made it light again and for forever. I like that, Mom.” It was all I could do not to cry. We made our way home, and after brushing teeth and crawling into bed, I kissed my daughter and told her I was so glad that God had touched her heart…to which she replied, “Momma, God didn’t touch my heart, God is IN my heart.” Tonight, God TRULY showed up in both of our lives.
–Terrance, Kari, and Sophia