Saturday, October 30, 2010

Sunny Boy

This Country Happened To Us: Charrissa filled you in on the fun events of no sleep and "meet us in 10 minutes", "in 15 minutes" while we were half asleep. I think I slept, at least mentally, through most of that day. It was painful and hard to keep a chipper disposition, but fortunately we had very capable people in the drivers seat. Note: Did I mention what a blessing it is that we have so many INTERESTING drivers in this country for my wife to experience. It did keep me awake, physically.

Time to Reflect: As Charrissa told you, we were awake at 3am and we had decided that we would grind it out. We wanted to stay up until it was time to go to bed in the evening hoping that this would get our bodies back on track. There was a 24 hour grocery down the road so my oldest son Isaac and I decided to go grocery shopping at about 4:30am. Why not? So down we went into the dark cold but amazingly beautiful sky, star filled and wonderful. We chatted about how great it was to be in this country, to have an opportunity to REDEEM, or give life to those little ones that are put aside at birth (given over to the state - terminating parental interest). Interestingly, Niko (our driver and translator extraordinair) told us that children, like our youngest son Justus - with Down syndrome, are called Sunny Children. Sunny Children. This seemed to perfectly capture the essence of people with Ds, cheerful, joyful, sunny. Yet their outlook in this country, their standing, is nothing near sunny. We kind of liked the phrase Niko shared with us, so we have gone to giving poor Justus another nickname...."Sunny Boy".

Other Sunny Families: We had the opportunity to meet up with other families that are in the capital city awaiting medical checkups and visas so that they can take their wonderful blessings home. It was beautiful to see their joy and peace that they had with their precious little ones. Everyones children are precious and yet none of them without struggles physically. How beautiful it was to see them all. However, there was also another aspect to the parents demeanor...a strong desire to be home, one that went beyond the natural longing to be in their own home, but one that had a wound with it. As we talked and got to know these families more, we discovered that there have been many hardships, or hurts from others in this society who, plainly, have a hard time accepting those with disabilities. The questions would come to them of why they would adopt THESE children. Other families who had people see their disabled child, scoff and walk off. As we wandered all over the beautiful city, we would occasionally comment that, "I think I just got a Sunny Boy look." This was before we knew the stories of these families. Oh, Lord open the eyes of these people. Oh Lord open the eyes of the people in the United States, where termination rates of pregnancies of children diagnosed with Ds are over 80%.

Mephibosheth: I was reading this morning, again, about Mephibosheth in II Samuel 9. What a beautiful picture of salvation. King David said is there any in the house of Saul that I might show him kindness. There was one to receive the gift of David. It was one who was disabled, crippled-lame, by the name of Mephibosheth. I am reminded how we are ALL disabled, crippled...crippled by sin (manifesting itself in selfishness, a lack of love, love of money, anger, pride, on and on). Yet David did not look at the disabled as throw aways! He reflected the kindness of God and had Mephibosheth dwell in the chief city, Jerusalem, and eat at the kings table forever! This is the love of my God! One that looks at my disability, sin, and loved me enough to send His Son to pay the penalty for my sin. Why when I am disabled, handicapped, and by so many worthless? Because He loves me that much, because He knows I can't save myself, and thus He makes a way that I might FOREVER eat at the Kings Table! Do you know the love of Jesus? Do you know Him as your Lord and Savior? Do you know this kind of Love?


Amazing Day: Today we wandered around the capital city full of history. Niko says as we were driving the other day, "oh no that isn't old, it is only 300 years old." Oh, ok. We enjoyed taking in all of the history, and the crepe stands (however they don't beat Luba's). Though all of this history was wonderful, it was not the most amazing thing that happened today. We were at the center of the capital city, depicted by a monument with a world on its top and lines on the ground that came out of the center. Each line had at it's end a name of a city within this country and how many kilometers away from this point the city was. We wanted a picture of the city that we would be adopting from so I was determined to, somehow, ask someone which line represented the city we would be going to. As I looked for an unsuspecting victim of my only english speaking self, I heard someone speaking english. I said, "Where is ****?" They pointed to a young man by the name of Anton who said, "oh it would be really close to the it is." We began a wonderful conversation with a group of young people from the United States and Anton, who they said OWNED the city.

These young people were from a church in the United States and they make an annual trip to work in the orphanages in this area. They shared with us that one of the orphanages is shutting down because as the orphanage was once full of children, it is now nearly empty because of all of the adoptions. Praise the Lord! One of the young peoples parents are beginning the adoption process right now. Praise the Lord! Anton also said that local orphanages would be open to allowing people to come and give the children bible studies. That would be AMAZING! How wonderful it is to see how THE LORD coordinates things and brings people together in an amazing way! We were unable to get in contact with a local missionary, my fault, so we will be attending church with Anton tomorrow and we will see what the Lord has for us.

Have a great Lord's Day! Sorry I was having a HORRIBLE time trying to load pictures. We will post more later.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Official ...

St. Andrew's Cathedral. Located right next to the SDA office. We watched as a bride ascended the steps.

A corner building that Phillip liked

We have the official referrals for both Matthew and Ivanna. Now we are waiting through the weekend, and then on Monday we will travel to the city they are in and get settled in. This is what I am (Charrissa) most anticipating. Yes, the city where we are is nice - fun to see different things and experience the city life, but my goal is to see and experience the sweet faces of Matthew and Ivanna. To look at the caretaker's there and declare that YES, I DO want these children. I CAN'T WAIT to snuggle, to play and to just hold them in my arms.

We thank you for praying with us on getting the one SDA appointment. It really was a last minute type of thing. We received a phone call yesterday morning requesting that we meet the driver at the street in fifteen minutes!!! AAAHHHHHHHH!!!!! We have severe jet lag and had been bumming around. We did it though, like chickens with our heads cut off we ran around and got ready in time. No small task for three people and one baby.

Once at the curb we were greeted by Niko. We piled into his sporty little European car and drove like maniacs (normal here) to the notary. Let me explain: the notary here is WAY different than in the states. Here, we waited outside in the car while Niko headed inside with our passports - then one by one we went in to sign the paperwork, all in Russian. Niko translated. We then got in that same care and flew to the SDA office and turned in that paperwork, shopped at an outdoor market right below St. Andrew's Cathedral and returned to the apartment to sleep.

A few hours later, we got a call to be ready in ten minutes for the taxi at the curb. I roused my sleeping cohorts and we piled into the taxi. I was sure I might die in that taxi. He was CRAZY. With techno music blaring and the smell of cigarette smoke heavy, my life flashed before my eyes as this driver had near misses all the way to the SDA. We made it, got both refferals, and came home - exhausted.

It is now about 3:00am here. Phillip, Justus and myself are wide awake. I hear the howls, barks and screeches of the wild dogs outside our apartment. They travel in packs here, and are quite common to see wandering the streets of the city.
Our bodies are so messed up right now trying to adjust. We will make ourselves stay up today to try and get on the right clock. We also plan on venturing out a bit more and taking it all in. Thank you for the prayer regarding the referrals. God has continued to hear those prayers, and sees fit to answer. We thank and praise Him for it.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The First of Our Travels

Travelling: Our first flight was from Seattle to Washington D.C. on a 4.5 hour flight. We then changed planes and flew on a 777 from D.C. to Frankfurt Germany. This flight was pretty comfortable as we had a whole row to ourselves. Justus did wonderfully! Isaac loved hearing all of the German speaking that was going on. We wandered through the airport in Frankfurt a bit like a fish out of water...what gate, were we supposed to take the bus, on and on, but it worked fine and we enjoyed our final flight from Frankfurt to here which was about 2.5 hours. (Flight times are here for Cody Hilson). We met many interesting people, one man who was flying down as an american representative to help validate the local elections. When asked how he was going to do that, he really didn't know. hmmmm......ok.

Time to Reflect: It was wonderful to take a bit of time to think about how much the Lord has blessed us during this trip already. We have such a large group of people supporting us and lifting us up in prayer and encouragement. I was thinking about the amazing acts of kindness of others throughout this journey. How amazing story after amazing story has been made manifest in the acts of others. What a blessing it has been and we don't even have the children yet. We haven't but barely begun the travel part of the journey and the many manifold blessings. Thank you Lord for allowing us to go on this journey, entrusting us, and blessing us so.

We arrive: Customs was a quick process and was not an issue at all. Praise the Lord, all of our luggage arrives in tact. We travel out of the baggage claim area to find a humbly dressed man with a sign that says "Brownings". He immediately, graciously grabbed some of our luggage and uttered some words in the local tongue. I have no idea what he said, but we knew we needed to follow him. He lead us to a VERY small car for 5 people and all that luggage. "Travel light" was not what we did, especially seeing how Gabriel, Ethan, and I had so much fun buying gifts for the orphanage during a time of shopping days before we left the U.S.

The Capital City: What a beautiful place. Agriculture in the outskirts, with a meriad of modern and mainly old buildings, all mixed together, fighting for prominence. I think the older buildings were winning the contest, but it was wonderfully and entertainingly beautiful. We arrived in a back alley sitting in the car as our driver, who we now knew as Sasha was making and receiving calls, we assumed he was waiting for someone to show us in to the old building where our apartment would be.

The Universal Language: I noticed that he had a cross on his rear view mirror and so I jestured at it and tried to ask him if he was a christian. I am sure that however I tried to animate or gesture this must have been ridiculous, but he smiled and reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a small and worn bible and turned through the pages. He then took out his phone and pulled up an application that had wording that I recognized as the psalms. He pushed a button and I could hear the Eastern European language being spoken, discerning only psalms and David. I said, "Psalms and King David" to my wife and he looked at me and nodded and smiled. I heard Psalm 1 being read in the native tongue and could hear by its tempo in my mind as it was being read..."Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful...". I began reciting it out loud as it was being read. Fun. I pulled out my bible and pointed to Psalm 121, which has been such a blessing for us as we remember to look to the Lord, our prayer being that the Lord would turn our burden into praise. He read it and smiled and took us in the same fashion to Psalm 41. We were reminded that the Lord cares for those that care for the poor and needy. This interaction reminded me of the story that my family recently enjoyed called, "God's Smuggler." This was a story about a man who took bibles behind the iron curtain in the 50's and 60's to places like this country. This is certainly a different city today, but what a wonderful time enjoying this universal language, the Word of God. The man in the story did the same thing, but much more detailed, using specific verses in the bible to communicate to someone else who spoke a different language.

The Apartment: Travel light! Sasha unloaded the luggage as I went into the building with another man who spoke a little bit of broken english. He was going to show us our apartment. As we went up the MANY flights of stairs and reached the sixth floor I thought of all of the luggage that we had packed. Travel light. Hmmmm and no elevator. The apartment was quaint and much nicer than the outside of the building or the old cement steps would have lead you to believe, but VERY HOT. I started to sweat immediately...ok it was the stairs. After trying so hard to communicate, the man eventually called a woman, Yulia, who spoke wonderful english. She told us that a man by the name of Niko would be stopping by around 7 or 8 o'clock to provide us with a local cell phone and would fill us in on the travel plans for our SDA appointment the next morning at 9am. Sasha took me to exchage some money and that was that.

Boys Night on the Town: Charrissa and Justus were worn out, but Isaac and I just had to go adventure out into the big unknown. We went down some roads in the direction that Sasha had earlier told me was the Center. That is about all I could make out from his speech, but he made it seem like that was where everything was. He was right. We found a TGI Fridays and a place to exchange more money. We met some great people and we were told by someone who spoke english that we should eat at a Local Restaraunt with local cuisine right by TGI Fridays. The food was all buffet style and so we just pointed at stuff, not really knowing what we were getting. Well, we knew the brauts and borscht, but other than that, we were stepping out. We had a great time and enjoyed our adventure and our selections. LOVE THE LOCAL CHOW! Not good, so much for losing some weight while here. We went to a pizza parlor to order pizza for Charrissa to be taken back to the apartment. They had wifi there and I tried desperately to FACETIME with the children back in the U.S., but I could not get it to work. All of a sudden, my phone rang asking me to join a facetime session with the browning boys, apparently Gabriel, my 9 year old boy was trying his hand at figuring out facetime as well and he was able to get it to work. Go figure, I am only a computer programmer. I guess some things are better left to 9 year olds. I answered the request and in no time we were face to face on our phones half way across the world. I was able to introduce Gabriel and Ethan to the pizza parlor, our waitress, and was able to walk with him a little down the street to show him the big beautiful buildings in the city. Facetime is amazing and did I mention FREE if you connect directly over wifi. (hint hint)

This is SIMPLY awesome. The 82.5 on the butter means FAT and GOOD. The biscuits with the butter and a strong coffee. Breakfast of champions!

SDA Appointment: When I spoke to Yulia the day before, I had asked if we should dress nice for the SDA appointment, to which she said yes if we had nice clothes. So Isaac and I wore suit and ties and Charrissa was her normal beautiful self. We had a cab number 1554 meet us outside and he was supposed to know where to take us. He was on time, sharply at 8:30. Wow people drive CRAZY here. I am secretly glad that Charrissa is experiencing this kind of driving here while someone else is driving because she is going to go home thinking I drive like a grandmother. Another unexpected benefit of the trip! We arrive in front of a building and the driver nicely says something along the lines of, get out. I reiterate "SDA" to which he says, "yes, yes" and points to the building in the direction to the foreign writing. I have no idea what it said, but it was REALLY long for SDA. I didn't know what we should do once on the sidewalk standing in the cold, so I grabbed the phone that Niko had given us the night before and call a preprogrammed number for Yulia. Oh sweet Yulia says, "do you see the door with the flag over it...stand there, someone will meet you there." Sure enough, after waiting there about 5 minutes a women shows up and takes us to our appointment. Everything went wonderfully! We were told about Ivanna and Matthew. Both children have siblings, a brother each. These brothers do not have handicaps so they live with their biological mom, but Matthew and Ivanna have disabilities and were both given up at birth with both parents immediately surrendering all parental interest and rights. So sad. We learn that Ivanna's mother is a teacher. She has an open oval window in her heart, she is not walking, has eyes that cross, and of course has Down syndrome. We did not learn much about Matthew's parents. He may have scoliosis, he has flat feet, an extra cord on his heart, some eye issues, and Down syndrome. They both need a home and are loved so much already. Not loving them more than of course their heavenly Father who designed them PERFECTLY!

Today: We ventured out with Charrissa and took in some of the sights. We are taking a nap now and will go out again in the evening so that we can facetime with the boys and make this post where there is wifi. Tomorrow we should hear from the SDA whether we will have all of our approvals to meet Matthew and Ivanna or if we will need the second appointment on Monday. Pray that we can forgo the second appointment and directly head down to the city Matthew and Ivanna are in. We can't wait for what the Lord has for us there. I LOVE THIS PLACE!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

We Are Here!

I don't have wireless access yet, so am updating by using my phone. Needless to say, this will be a short post. We are here!!! We got in about 1:00 pm local time. A whirlwind! Approximately fifteen flying hours logged, too many drip coffees, and travel weary - red blotchy eyes BUT ..... we are here! Our SDA is at 9:00am tomorrow. We ask for prayer for one appointment time. Also we would LOVE just getting right down to the city Matthew and Ivanna are in and get situated.

Kids at home: Mommy misses you terribly. I love you and am praying for you. Daddy is snoozing but was excited to talk to you earlier. Gabriel and Ethan, make sure to water and feed chickens and rabbits. Love you all so very very much!!!!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Post Worthy



I know I said I probably would not post until we were in Eastern Europe. However, these boys are near and dear to my heart. I am not entirely sure why, perhaps it is their particular "story" of already being transferred. Julia, who just brought Aaron home from the same institution, met these two boys. She was finally able to share a little more about them. Every child needs a family, these two boys especially do. It would be wonderful if both boys were able to be connected with a forever family before this year is out. This particular country shuts down for a break between November and February. This would be a great time to start your paperwork. So, please, take a moment and click on this link:
This is a snippet into Heath and Brady's world.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

We Got It

Our SDA date that is. NEXT WEEK! October 28th! I awoke, bleary eyed and read my email first thing this morning while I still laid in bed. There, on my phone, were the words "Congratulations on your appointment" - I thought wow, great. I scrolled down and saw that it said October 28th. Hmmmm. October 28th? When is that? AHHHHHHHHH! I jumped up when I realized that is NEXT WEEK! Given that we also need to fly in at least the day before or two days before to adjust to time difference - let's just say, I AM FREAKING OUT!

I am excited, freaking out, trying to think of what next to do, freaking out, happy, freaking out, overjoyed that we get to see Matthew and Ivanna, freaking out ....

Well, you get the idea.

We covet your prayer as this journey continues, but now will do so in a far away country. I hope to continue to blog our adventures there. Please keep October 28th covered in prayer as we meet with the person, or people who are the ones who give us the referrals for the children. We are specifically praying for just one SDA appointment, and not separate ones for each child. We are also praying for that unknown third child that we petitioned for. Please, pray that God would be the one who guides and directs that choice.

Okay, next post, should be from Eastern Europe. Thank you everyone for your support and prayer. It has been unmeasurable. Feel free to cross post this on blogs and FB. It seems that many become interested in the adoption process when a family goes to the actual country. Our hope has always been to glorify Christ, and see more children find homes. If, by sharing our story, these things are accomplished - then I would love for many people to come along with us on our Eastern European journey.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Forgotten

In the wake of the loss of Anne Marie (see yesterday's post) I feel that it would be good to shed some light on two boys who could be labeled as ... the forgotten.
These two boys both have Down syndrome, and have ALREADY BEEN TRANSFERRED TO A MENTAL INSTITUTION FOR OLDER BOYS.
They have a grim future. Just recently a family was able to visit this same institution and perform the very first adoption from within this institution's walls. The woman has described both Heath and Brady as desperately needing to be adopted ASAP.
Please look at their sweet faces. Consider adopting, advocating, fundraising, praying for either or both of them.

Heath is just precious. He often spends his days with little to no stimulation. He has been reported to have been seen just playing with rubbish that is around him, by holding it and letting it just dangle within view. He needs a family badly.

This is Brady. He was just recently transferred. Brady also has significant tongue thrust, and because of this - eating is more difficult. His caretaker only needs to exercise patience in feeding him, but there are times when there is no time for patience - and Brady is often overlooked during snack time. He is small, and malnourished. He is six. He needs his family.

If you would like more information on either child, go to

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Today, difficult news was shared: little Ann Marie passed away. Ann Marie had been waiting for so long to be adopted, but it was too long. She is now safe in the arms of Jesus. This news is so difficult to digest. Her little face is so beautiful, and her story is so hard to swallow. There were many who had the opportunity to meet her. They spoke of how sweet she is. How the nurses there in her orphanage would discourage any to show her attention due to her "bad heart". Ann Marie had a heart condition, and while it is unknown if this is the reason for her passing, it was clear she needed medical attention for it.
This is sobering news, and a clear reminder as to the "realness" of what this is all about. These children are real. They need a real family. They need real prayer. They need people to really care, regardless of if you are called to adopt them. THIS IS REAL. Perhaps it is our own Justus who reminds me everyday of how much these special needs orphans could truly blossom given the right environment. Perhaps it is his face smiling that reminds me of how hopeless the plight of his orphan peers are. Perhaps it's his pink fingertips after a successful heart repair that reminds me of how needless Ann Marie's death really is. Regardless, I have been painfully reminded as to the importance of getting my own Ivanna who also has a heart condition still in need of repair. I am anticipating hugging, loving and caring for her. While I shed tears over Ann Marie, I am looking forward - with Christ's help - in having Ivanna and Matthew no longer be orphans.
If you are reading this and feel an ounce of burden for these children - pray. Pray for them to have families step forward. Pray for the families who are currently adopting for the provision of funds. Pray for the health of these children, for their tummies to be full, for them to stay warm as their nights turn cold in heat less institutions, for their caretakers to give them loving hugs, for their countrymen to be awakened to the blessings they truly are.
And then there is action ...
If you are Christmas shopping, consider doing so on adoptive family's fundraisers to be a help and encouragement. Consider becoming a Christmas Angel Warrior for children on the Reece's Rainbow website (more about this in a future post). If you are even contemplating adoption, but are held back because of funds - know this - GOD WILL PROVIDE. Step out on faith, and know that God has provided for us, and we trust that He will continue to do so. We are not wealthy. We have simply trusted. God has simply saw fit to provide along the way.
We covet your prayer as well as we look for an SDA date any day - and that means we will soon be travelling.
Finally, don't be discouraged by Ann Marie's death - BE BURDENED! Ann Marie is finally at peace - but there are others still left behind .... and waiting.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Blessings of Downs

If you ever have the need to email Andrea from Reece's Rainbow - you will notice that at the bottom of all her emails is the following phrase included in her "signature" ...
"Because every family deserves the blessing of a child with Down syndrome .... "
Ha. I imagine that if you said this out in the open - that it would perplex most. Perhaps it would also be a mind boggling statement for some of those who are Christians. I mean, most would jump on the bandwagon of protecting and even saving those little lives, but to go so far as to call it a ... blessing?!? To go so far as to adopt them??? Really?
I am being a little factitious ... okay, maybe a lot of factitious. ;) My point, is that this statement on the bottom of her emails is SO VERY TRUE. Since we have had Justus, we have not only been made aware of how precious EVERY life truly is, but we also have been apart of seeing the BLESSINGS of having a child with special needs. I feel like it is some great secret, that the world has yet to discover. Why wouldn't the world want to be apart of something so beautiful?
Having Justus has been one of the most wonderful things to have happened to our family. Our family is learning so much from having him here. Benevolence, patience, simple joy and contentment, rallying, and the list goes on. Having Justus has enriched this Mom's life ... tremendously - and I never want to turn back. Down syndrome is really nothing more to me than just apart of him. I have read other moms blogs that say things like "If I could ask for ____ to be born without Ds, I would; but ..."
Well, I can say - I don't ever see myself asking God to go back and somehow allow Justus to be born without Ds. I don't see myself asking for a "healthy" Justus, as oppossed to him having Ds. Down syndrome is apart of him. While it may not dictate WHO he is, it is a major part of him. To me, it is almost as if it is what helps to make up his BEAUTIFUL personality.
Down syndrome has certainly ENRICHED the Browning home. I wish EVERY family could experience what we have over the last seventeen months of having Justus. You would come away changed ... for the better.
Now we are embarking on bringing home two, possibly three more children with Ds - and we could not be more excited. We also rejoice in seeing other children with Ds finding their "forever families".
This little secret of the blessing of Downs is slowly getting out ...
" ... because EVERY family deserves the blessing of a child with Down syndrome ..."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Request

I have a request. If you would, please visit my friend's blog:

They are working to bring home Sophie, and are doing a blog auction. She does not have a Facebook account, so your help in getting the word out by cross posting the link on FB would be quite helpful. She and Eric are dear friends of ours - and we are excited to see how God is working in their family by way of this adoption. Adoption really does open your eyes and hearts in a way that I can't quite put my finger on. It is magnificent to see God manifest Himself in such awesome ways.

The above picture is of a traditional Russian dinner. Luba and Eric came to our home and made this meal for us. She has it listed on her blog auction, and I have to say - IT IS DELICIOUS! I loved it. Our whole family loved it. We love the Bowden family and hope you will think to stop by their blog and bid, or leave an encouraging word. THANK YOU!


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