THOGL Reunion in Pennsylvania

On Saturday, we traveled just south of Pittsburgh, PA for a get together of families who have adopted children from The Home of God’s Love in Taiwan. We had never met any of these families in person before except through Facebook. thogl reunion pa 6

It is amazing the instant bond we have with families who have been to that very special place. The Home of God’s Love is holy ground to all of us.

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Over the years we have connected with families in California, New Jersey, Florida, New York, Missouri, Kentucky, Indiana and even Iraq who have all experienced the dichotomy of being in a room full of crying babies in Taiwan and somehow it being one of the most wonderful and peaceful places on Earth. The faith of Ted and Bev Skiles (the founders and directors of THOGL) has a lot to do with that.

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The legacy Ted and Bev continue to build is remarkable. Hundreds of former orphans have forever families now because over 40 years ago they committed their lives to James 1:27.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

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Weather-wise Saturday turned out to be a gloomy and rainy day, but I don’t think the kids minded much.

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Chase and Jackson’s only regret of the day was that they finally got to travel to Pennsylvania but didn’t go to Frog Creek and meet Jack and Annie from The Magic Treehouse books.

Their favorite part of the day; however, was meeting a bunch of new friends.

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THOGL Reunion 2013 – Kentucky Edition

Last weekend we were in Louisville, KY to see family and friends. Our timing couldn’t have been better because several families who also adopted from The Home of God’s Love were getting together.

It’s always fun to get together with THOGL families because our shared experiences have created a strong bond between us. It seems to be that way among our kids too.

It is so cool how intertwined all of our stories are. Most of us followed each other online when we were going through our adoption journeys. One family we met for the first time at the reunion was at THOGL when Chase was just a one-month-old baby and was being called “Gabriel.” So they got to hold him seven months before we did!

Actually our stories connect with all of these kids in some way or another. For example, the only girl at the reunion, Libby is the same baby girl Janie is holding in the photo below. We were in Taipei in June 2009 to bring Chase home and we met up for lunch with one of our heroes, Juanita Hebard (Executive Director of Ray of Hope), who was bringing this newborn baby girl to The Home of God’s Love. 

Also, two of the boys at the reunion were at THOGL when our Jackson was there in 2010. Here is Cooper and Jackson F. with his “Hoosier-crazed” family.

Here is a shot of me and my wingmen on a walk near The Home of God’s Love from May 2010 where we have our Jackson plus Cooper and Jackson F. in the double stroller. What is even more ironic is our son’s full name is Jackson Cooper Mehaffey!

I love that our boys are going to grow up buddies with so many of the kids who they met as babies in that very special place on the other side of the world. 

Taiwan’s High Abortion Rate Hits Close to Our Home and Hearts.

This morning I was thinking about Chase and Jackson‘s birth mom in Taiwan. We have never met her but she is never far from our mind. When we traveled to Taiwan we learned of the alarming abortion rate (some estimates say for every child born, three children are aborted). We are so grateful for organizations like Ray of Hope in Tainan who are standing in the gap for the unborn and for scared and confused young women. Only God knows where our sons would be without them.  

I turned to Google and entered the words “Taiwan’s abortion rate” and clicked on the first link from a news site called Asia Sentinel. Then my heart stopped. 

It wasn’t the content of the article that shocked me. No, it only verified what I already knew.

It was the photo of eleven Taiwanese babies that accompanied the article that grabbed my attention.  

This photo is from The Home of God’s Love in Yilan County, Taiwan and our son, Jackson, is the third child from the right on the bottom row. The caption reads “these made it through.” If the above statistic is correct, 33 children did not

We are so grateful to the young woman in Taiwan who after making a series of bad choices demonstrated great courage when she chose not to remedy those bad choices by making a far worse one. Your bravery allowed for these smiles to shine.

Doctors, Dentists, and Thomas the Tank Engine.

2012 has been the year I have pulled my Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance card out of my wallet more than my Starbucks Gold Card. OK, not true. But looking at the medical bills it feels true. Have you noticed that health care is kind of a mess in America? 

On my way back from Iraq earlier in June I had an overnight layover in Frankfurt, Germany. I Facetime’d Janie and she informed me that Jackson suffered a febrile seizure earlier that day. Febrile seizures are quite common among children (I learned as I Googled it later that night) but when you are an ocean away and your child and wife are dealing with something like this without you … helplessness kicks in. 

When we got back to Florida, I took Jackson into the hospital for an EEG to find out if there was something more serious lurking. They glued twenty-two sensors to his head and then wrapped it in gauze to keep them in place. Jackson was a champ through the whole lengthy process. As a matter of fact, he thought he looked awesome in his “new hat.” I couldn’t have agreed more. 

The nurse left the room to begin the test and for the first time, Jackson looked at me with concern written on his face. He asked, “Daddy, is something wrong me?” 

I just about lost it.

I assured him nothing was wrong but was questioning the words as they came out of my mouth.  

The test went for about an hour. Half of the time Jackson was awake and the other half he crashed. Per doctor’s orders, we had kept him up since 4 a.m. so that he would fall asleep during the test.

The test came back normal. Jackson has had a couple fevers since but not a single seizure that we are aware of. We just have to keep a close eye on him when ever he starts to feel warm.

Then we took the boys to the dentist. Thanks to one of my favorite movies, Finding Nemo (see clip below), the boys were dreading this trip. So we did what any self-respecting parent would do. We bribed them. After their dentist appointment we would go to Toys R Us and let them pick out a new Thomas & Friends train.

After fighting through a dozen x-rays, we were told Chase would have to have three baby teeth pulled because of the sheer amount of decay in each tooth. Jackson would simply have to have a filling. Here is Jackson (post-filling) with his new engine, James. 

They recommended Chase go under sedation so they could get all three teeth at once but the total cost was over $10,000! The good news would be that we would finally reach our deductible. Score! Instead, we are opting for getting the extractions done in a couple trips to the dentist’s office while Chase is awake but with a numbing anesthetic. The procedures are still crazy expensive but necessary. 

The good news is after all these trips to the doctor/dentist the boys will have a whole fleet of new trains. You might want to join me in buying stock in the makers of Thomas the Train Engine

#ThrowbackThursday – Taipei Gate

Today’s #ThrowbackThursday photo takes me back to May 2010 when we traveled back to Taiwan to make our adoption of Jackson official. My parents came down to Miami to hang out with Chase while Janie and I were getting to know our little Jack-attack. While we were there, Ted Skiles (the director of The Home of God’s Love), took us to the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial for a little sightseeing. 

Helping Our Heroes: Part 2

Because Janie and I are followers of Jesus, we believe the Bible is clear that giving 10% of what God allows us to have is just the baseline — or the starting point — for what we should be giving back to Him. So as we keep growing closer to God, we keep getting more and more amped about giving generously.

Over the past few years, God has put us in connection with some people who are doing crazy, exciting stuff in God’s name around the world. We love being able to support what they’re doing through our giving. 

You really need to know these people. They are all people we respect and who inspire us … and I think they’ll inspire you too. (Then head down to my comments section and tell us who are some people that are inspiring you and your family to show generosity towards!)

Samantha and Chris Sanford

On an October day in 2008, a very tired woman knocked on a door in Tainan, Taiwan. It was the door of Ray of Hope ( a place dedicated to teaching young women about the sanctity of life and Jesus). The woman handed a newborn baby boy over to several women. One of those ladies was Samantha Lin.

Samantha called him Gabriel.

We call him Chase

Before Chase could be moved to The Home of God’s Love (a wonderful orphanage in Yilan County on the other side of Taiwan), Samantha took care of him for a month. Many of the earliest pictures we have of Chase have Samantha cozied up next to him. When Janie and I traveled to Taiwan to bring Chase home we were thrilled to meet this incredible, young woman. We also know how hard it was for her to part with the little man she had bonded with. Samantha also agree to video herself telling Chase’s story so we could show it to him as he grows up.

A few months later Samantha once again met Chase’s birth mom. This time she was handing over his new baby brother, Jackson.

Around this time, Samantha met a young man from Louisville, KY, named Chris Sanford who had come to serve in Taiwan. She kind of liked him. He really liked her–smart guy. Samantha moved to Louisville and they married. They didn’t stay in the States for long though. They were trained by Team Expansion and sent back to Taiwan to start a church near Tainan (Chase and Jackson’s birthplace).

And I can’t forget to mention, Chris and Samantha are now proud parents of a beautiful little girl appropriately named Hosanna.

We are very proud to help Chris and Sam anyway we can. Taiwan desperately needs more people like them and churches pointing people to Jesus Christ. It is our prayer the same woman who birthed our boys will discover the unconditional love only God can offer through the church the Sanford’s plant.

Check out Chris’s blog for more about their work in Taiwan.

P.S. You may or may not know that I raise my own support so I can serve with World Orphans and help rescue vulnerable children around the globe. So I have a huge amount of gratitude for the 70+ churches, families and individuals who have generously partnered with my family over the last year. It is because of their generosity that we are able to be generous too.

Give Your Kids the World: Part 3

Let’s face it. The tablet isn’t going away anytime soon. As a matter of fact, my boys will probably never know what it is like to haul heavy textbooks to and from school and instead carry only a tablet of some kind.

I use my iPad more than any other device but I see less and less of it as my boys get older. I have created two folders specifically for them which are full of apps I feel are appropriate, educational and fun. I’m going to cover a few of them briefly as part of this series. 

1. World Atlas iPad app by Barefoot Books - $7.99 in the Apple App Store.

This app is great from the way the music changes to fit the region you are exploring to the narrator’s super, cool accent. Both of my boys love this interactive atlas. It is easy for them to navigate on their own but I also use this app when we go through our other activity books like this one. Here is a quick video of Chase exploring.

2. Stack the States / Stack the Countries – Full versions are both less than $2.

These games maybe a smidge too old for my boys but that hasn’t stopped them from playing. Basically this is a geography trivia app and with every correct answer you try to stack states and countries into a tall pile. I personally enjoy this game and love playing it with my boys cause I’ll help them with the trivia and then let them stack. The pressure is high too, believe me. When I miss a question, both Chase and Jackson will look at me with complete disdain and disappointment! Not to mention they are needing my help less and less!

3. Google Earth – Free across many app stores and platforms.

Again, my boys are too young to manage Google Earth by themselves but what a powerful tool for parents and teachers! I like to take my boys on a virtual trip to Taiwan and show them where The Home of God’s Love is and where we stayed on our trips over there so we could bring them home. They also like to spy on Walt Disney World and Disneyland from above!

What apps am I forgetting? Which ones do you use? Leave a comment below and let us know!

Part 4 of GYKTW is coming soon!

Jackson’s 2nd “Gotcha Day”

Two years ago, my little wild man officially became a Mehaffey.

Welcome Home” video.

We also showed Jackson three video messages from some very special people who helped take care of him during his seven months at The Home of God’s Love in Taiwan (from top: Bev “Shr Mama” Skiles, Jess Waechter, and Ted “Shr Baba” Skiles). I am so glad we thought of shooting these little videos for both of our boys. As they get older I am sure they will mean even more.

To quote from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, “He chose wisely.” So wisely in fact poor Chase had a tough time being completely happy for his little brother. Don’t fret for Chase cause his “Gotcha Day” is in less than a month. But in the next two photos notice the longing in Chase’s eyes as he waits for Jackson to get bored with his new dump truck.

Grapes and watermelon made everything better.

Our make shift car wash was the perfect way to end the day. Happy “Gotcha Day” Jack Jack!

Ni Hao Yall

 

Whew! Janie is Home.

Well my week alone with the boys is over and I think we did pretty well. We are all thrilled to have Janie back though. Janie took the boys to Disney’s Animal Kingdom today so I could get caught up with work and give my introverted-self some much needed quiet time. 

Some highlights this week were:

  • The bubble guns
  • Both boys continuing to dominate their self-rescue swim lessons. I couldn’t be more proud of them.
  • Sharing an ice cream swirl at Magic Kingdom.
  • Having one of my photos selected as a “fav” on NiHaoYall.com’s Sunday Snapshot contest
  • Getting to see friends Mike and Kim Cottle and their awesome kiddos Kaley and Cade. 

Speaking of the Cottle’s, the church they started in South Carolina just celebrated their 5th birthday and they were celebrated by Stadia (the organization Janie works with) at a banquet at the Hard Rock here in Orlando on Wednesday night. Their babysitting fell through at the last minute so Chase, Jackson and I got to host Kaley and Cade. 

Quick backstory: Mike and Kim are old college friends of mine and they are the ones who pointed Janie and me to The Home of God’s Love when we were considering adopting. Chase was at THOGL with Kaley and Jackson was there with Cade. It absolutely blows my mind the way God works when I see these guys play together. 

Here is Chase and Kaley hanging out together at THOGL in 2009. 

Exponential Conference in Orlando, FL (half a world a way, Jackson and Cade were at THOGL waiting for us to come bring them home).

Magical Families 2011. 

Beautiful Chaos

This weekend we made the long trek to Joplin, MO for The Home of God’s Love annual picnic. I am not positive how many families ended up making the trip but it was a bunch. Beautiful chaos is the best I can describe the event. It was such a pleasure to meet so many people that were formerly only Facebook friends. We are so proud to be part of the THOGL tribe.