Monday, February 18, 2008

Please Pray for Me: I'm Going to Prison

How's that for an attention-grabber?? I actually AM going to prison soon..and I really do want your prayers. But it's not a bad thing. In fact, it's an absolutely amazing thing. About 6 years ago, I got involved with an amazing ministry called Kairos. It's about sharing God's love with those in prison. For about 4 years, I was was a part of this ministry at our state's women's prison. Our team of women put on two big retreats a year, as well as two smaller (as in shorter) retreats a year, and held monthly reunions for the residents (the word we call those who are incarcerated) who have participated in our Kairos weekends. I'm telling y'all - God works incredible ways on these things. Every. Single. Time. I didn't do all those events - but did head to the prison several times a year. Then, when Hannah came home, I stopped. I supported them in other ways (the ways I'm going to give you an opportunity to help!), but I didn't personally go for about two years. Well, I now have the opportunity to go back. So, the third weekend in March, I will be heading in to prison to help put on this Kairos retreat weekend. And I am so excited!! I have witnessed many miracles in the tiny chapel of this prison. I have seen hearts of stone melt and women cry for the first time in years. I have seen women who were black, white, young, old, inmates, "free world" people (what they call us), rich, poor, Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, been to church their whole life, never walked in the door of a church before, and EVERYTHING in between join hands together in a small chapel and praise God with ONE VOICE lifted in song. I have seen women forgive someone for hurts unimaginable. I have seen other women accept God's forgiveness for the first time. I have seen enemies in the prison sit at a table together and hug and ask for each other's forgiveness. I have heard women get up and say "I never knew other people loved me. I never knew God loved me. I know now". I could go on and on and on! But, I won't. Well, actually, I will for a minute. It's not just prisoners lives who are changed. Team members lives have been changed as well. My life has been changed by this ministry, mostly in ways I can't quite describe. But, if you've ever experienced God's power and love in such an intense way, you'll know what I mean when I say you can't leave that experience the same as you came.

With all that said, we need your help. God calls us to visit the prisoners (Mathew 25). I don't think it's a call for only a few Christians. I think it's a call for all of us. That does not mean I think everyone has to physically enter prison. Just like I don't think everyone has to personally adopt a child to fulfill God's call to care for the orphan. But many of you (I'm speaking to other adoptive parents) can remember that when you adopted your child, you had support from those around you. I did. It's the same way. We need your support. I'm going to list the ways you can help, and invite you to prayerfully consider how God might use you to change the lives of the 36 women I will have the opportunity to meet that third weekend in March.

*****1 - PRAY for us! This is not meant to be the "easy way out" as in, "I don't want to do anything else, but I guess I can pray". This is BY FAR, the most important thing you can do for us. I'm thrilled with whatever you can / want / feel called to do to help, but my hope is this one gets the most responses by a HUGE AMOUNT! We (the team of this Kairos weekend) work very hard to ensure that the entire weekend is covered in prayer. Start praying now. Please pray for us (the team - that we would be open to however God chooses to use during this weekend and that we would put Christ first in everything we do. Our intention is to draw the residents to Jesus Christ, not to impress them or draw them ot us) and for our families (for me, I'd appreciate you praying for Hannah, who will be staying with my parents that weekend), pray for the chaplain and warden to select the women God wants to be there, pray for the logistics of putting this on (there is so much RED TAPE, and obstacles, but God works through them every time!!), Pray for the women who will participate in our retreat. Pray for these precious children of God to know that - to know they are God's children. Pray for their hearts to be changed. Pray for their families - to participate in our weekend retreat, the women are required to be there for the whole event, which means giving up weekend visitation with any family for that weekend. Pray for the officers who will be assigned to us during the weekend. Just pray. :-)

If you will pray for us before and during the weekend (3rd weekend in March - I'll put a reminder on this blog), please post in the comments. One of the really cool things we do is make a prayer chain. Think paper chain like you used to make in school. But our prayer chain is made of bright colored strips and it's huge! It goes all the way around the chapel. Each strip has the name of a person outside of the prison who is praying for the residents. When it's brought out, it's one of the first things that begins to melt some women's hearts - to know THAT MANY people are praying for them. Our chain is attached to a similar white paper chain. The white paper chain represents the other inmates who are praying. Other Christians in the prison, including those who have previously participated in our weekends agree to pray as well. It's breathtaking to see! It's a tangible, visible sign of God's love. So, if you will pray for us, I'd love to write your name on a prayer chain strip. If your husband / sister / brother / cousin / son/ daughter / co-worker /etc. will pray for us, leave their names as well. (We will only use first names).

2. Sponsor a meal for one of our participants - this is the money one. :-) I hate asking for money in general, but this is not for me. The fact is, it costs money to put a Kairos weekend on. We need many supplies, and the big expense: food. We provide all the food for the weekend. These women get home-cooked meals, many for the first time in years. I have eaten a prison meal once before (We used to have mini-retreats where we ate one meal with the residents in their cafeteria). I don't know any other way to put it except to say I am not a picky eater at all. I had no problems eating in China. I had no problems eating in Lithuania. But in prison, all I did was push the food around my plate to make it look like I ate and then went out to eat after we left the prison. But, for 2.5 days, these women get home cooked meals. We have a kitchen team that cooks meals at a nearby church and brings them to us. Real fruit. Real vegetables. Real meat. Real bread. Real milk. Real cookies, and brownies, and ice cream, and ...It's just one more way we show them that we care about them in hopes they will begin to realize that God cares about them. If you'd like to donate to help provide a meal, please e-mail me at and I will send you my address to mail a check (make it out to Kairos Prison Ministry). I can provide receipts for tax purposes if you would like, just send me an address to send it to. For a donation of $5 or more, we will put your name (first name) and where you are from ( "John from Birmingham") on a piece of paper that will be at a resident's seat when they sit down to eat a meal. Again, it's just way to show them that people outside that prison do care about them.

3. PRAY for us (see #1)

4. Make Cookies..this is better if you're at least somewhat local. We need homemade cookies that we will take to serve the residents through the weekend. If you'd like to make a dozen, e-mail me and let me know. I'd have to get a way to get them from you a day or two before I leave, but if you're fairly local, I can do that.

5. PRAY for us (see #1)

6. Provide written expressions of God's love. We give the women a bag of special letters during the weekend that express God's love for them. These can be poems, inspirational sayings, or general letters. They have to be paper only (no staples) and we need 40 that are identical (we really need 36, but we usually ask for 40 just in case). Everyone is treated the same, so we can not use them if they are not identical. It's really special for them to receive hand-written letters. The team used to write these letters. We would each write 36 letters and sign them and they were so special. We are no longer allowed to do that (rules change often in the prison environment). The rule now at this prison is that if you have the priveledge to volunteer, you can not write letters. If you write letters, you can not volunteer. So, because I volunteer, along wiht the rest of the team, I (and they) can not write these letters. It's asking a lot I know to write 36 identical letters on the same stationary..but if you'd like to do that, know that it will be tremendous blessing. They do not need to be long..a couple sentences expressing God's love and your prayers, etc. would be fine. They can be signed by a first name. I would need these letters no later than Wed. March 12. You can mail them to me ( for my address)or if you're local, I can pick them up. If you do a poem, or saying, etc. that you type, you can e-mail it to me and I can print it off and run copies for you..unless you want to do it on special paper or something.

7. PRAY FOR US! (see #1)

8. Ask Someone else to PRAY FOR US!

Know that anything you do, and especially your prayers, will make a difference in the Kingdom of God. I know many of you may have a variety of opinions on prisons and prisoners and why they are there, etc. That's not our point. We honestly don't care why they're there. We don't ask them either. I won't argue or discuss whether they should be there or not. I'll leave that to our government. Fact is, they committed a crime. Fact is, they are sinners. Fact is, so am I. Fact is, God loves me anyway. Fact is, God loves them anyway too - only so many of them don't know that. That's why we're there - to tell them.

For more information about this ministry, visit Our weekend is March 13-15. Don't forget to leave a comment if I can add you to our prayer chain! Thank you!!


Hannah and I went to the beach this weekend. A friend of mine was staying on Dauphin Island for work for several weeks and invited us to come up for the weekend. So, we took advantage of the offer. Thanks Tricia! We had a great time. I discovered that I LOVE the beach in February. Sure, it's a bit cool and we had to plan our beach time around the storms, but I love walking on the beach and having to squint and look really far to see another person. I love the feeling of being secluded and having the beach to myself. And as far as those storms, well, we just took a really long afternoon nap! Hannah and I had such a great time and it was a relaxing weekend that was much appreciated!! Another fun thing was that I completely suprised her with the trip. I had a meeting at church Saturday. So, after my meeting, I picked Hannah up at her babysitter's with my car having been packed the night before. When I got her, I said "We're not going home". She said "why?" and I told her because we were going to the beach. She paused and said "today?" and when I said yes, she absolutely squealed and giggled and said "Oh, I SO excited! Thank You mama!" It was precious! Her enthusiasm and love for life makes it so much fun to pull off special suprises!

Hannah and Tricia

Working on the sand castle

Drawing in the sand

Wow! Look at the Big waves!

The sun is tryiing to peek through the clouds at sunset time

The morning we're headed home - the sun finally comes out. Didn't matter though - we had a great time, clouds and all!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Year of the Rat! (Chinese New Year part 2)

Well, this is the Year of the Rat..and Hannah started it out right. Her hair looked like a rat crawled through it. Hannah decided to be helpful and brush her hair by herself with my round hairbrush and got the brush stuck in her hair. I heard whining and frustration, so I looked in to see the problem. Well, being the sympathetic mother I am, I told Hannah - sure, I'll help you get it out. But wait and let me get the camera first!! ha!

This is what her hair looked like when I got the brush out finally!

We celebrated the Chinese New Year again with our friends from our local FCC group. We met at a Chinese restaurant for food, crafts, and fun. We had several new families join us, including a couple who had adopted way back in the early days of China adoptions (1995 I think).

Harrison, Taryn, Hannah, Ana Claire, Hannah Grace, McKenzie

And finally, I had a blast covering Chinese New Year with my preschoolers at school this year. They played fun games, made lanterns and fans and rats, tried Chopsticks, learned a few Chinese phrases, and created a dragon for a dragon parade down the halls of the school. I'd love to post pictures of our festivities, but I don't post pictures of the children in my classroom due to privacy you'll just have to imagine our fun! I did include one photo of our dragon since you can't see any of the kids' faces.

As Hannah's been walking around saying these days "Gung Hay Fat Choy"! Happy New Year!

Monday, February 04, 2008

All is Well in Taizhou

Hi. Just wanted to say that I learned things are well in Sadie's orphanage. A group in China checked on both orphanages in Taizhou for our orphanage yahoo group. They were not able to reach the director of the larger orphanage. But, they spoke directly with Sadie's orphanage director who reported that they had not been affected at all. He said there were some traffic problems and trains didn't run for two days, but that was resolved and everything at the orphanage was fine. YEAH!!

There are still many orphanages struggling with the winter storm however. For the latest news, check out Half the Sky's webpage
One orphanage has been without power for 10 days! Please keep these kids and their caregivers in your prayers, and if you'd like to donate to Half the Sky's relief work there, this would be the time to do it.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Chinese New Year (pt.1) / Prayer Request

We went to Birmingham's Chinese New Year festival today at Boutwell Auditorium. It was a little too crowded for my tastes at first, but we ended up having a good time. We walked around, Hannah made a little rat (2008 is the Year of the Rat), played some Chinese game with a ball and ruler that won her a peanut (yep, 1 peanut - she was happy but I thought it was kind of funny), received a red envelope with "lucky money" (2 pennies), and tried her hand at a Chinese yo-yo toy. We also saw dancers, singers, a fashion show, and some pretty amazing acrobats. Oh, and the highlight for Hannah was jumping in the moon bounce. When we first got there, we saw the Ferrill's, which was fun, so I finally got to me Kimmie and Quan. They are both precious! Quan was already sitting in his seat watching the performances so quietly, so I decided not to run over and grab him up (as a stranger to him!) just so I could hold him! ha!! But Kimmie was still on the steps and quite happy to pose for a picture with Hannah. She is a doll!! Hey Laine, send them over to my house any day!!

Kimmie and Hannah

Hannah checking out the Dragon Head

In other news, you may know that the weather in China has been pretty brutal recently. There have been major travel problems (planes, trains, busses, etc. have not been running in many cases). But, I've also heard that some of the orphanages have also had some trouble. I have not heard anything about Sadie's orphanage specifically, but it's in the Jiangsu Province and I do know that it has been hit with the winter storm. These two pictures are from her city though. Kind of interesting how they prepare the winter roads for travel.

Anyway, the director of Half the Sky (organization that does educational and nuture programs in some of China's orphanages) sent the following two e-mails about orphages they are connected with. Like I mentioned, Sadie's orphanage is not mentioned (because it does not have the Half the Sky organization working with them). Hannah's orphanage is mentioned though (Wuhan) Please read these e-mails, and pray for all of the children in these orphanages and others that we don't know anything about. Pray that the children are warm, well-fed, and have what they need and pray that their caretakers remain safe as well. If you are interested in making a donation to help provide relief to some of the orphanages affected by the winter storm, go to Half the Sky's website: and click on "donate now". On the donation page, put a note that the donation is for the "Little Mouse Emergency Fund".

Here's the e-mails:

EMAIL 1 (2/1/08)

Dear friends,

Greetings from Beijing. Every year at this time we send you a note celebrating and welcoming the Lunar New Year. This year, the Year of the Mouse, promises prosperity (we hope!) and good fortune and there should be plenty to celebrate.

But in these days leading up to the holiday the weather has dealt China a heavy blow. You’ve probably heard about the millions of workers stranded all over the country, struggling to return home to their families for the Spring Festival Holiday. But I don’t know if you know how rough these days are for our children in welfare institutions, who, of course, have no families to go home to. You won’t read about them in the news.

Despite power outages and downed phone lines, our Beijing staff has been reaching out to all Half the Sky orphanages by whatever means possible.
We’ve reached all but five. In some places, conditions are pretty grim.
We’ve managed to get word to all of our sites that we are going to do whatever it takes to get the children the help they need. I am asking for your help.

Today Half the Sky launches the “Little Mouse Emergency Fund” to help the institutions purchase what they need to get through this disaster. If there are funds left over when the weather clears and services are restored, we will take the balance and help each site establish a store of emergency provisions so that this never happens again.

You can give to the Little Mouse Emergency Fund by clicking “Donate Now”
on our website. Please note in the “Special Instructions to Half the Sky”
that your gift is for the Little Mouse Emergency Fund.

I am trying to get on an airplane right now (even airports are crazy!) but I will write more details about the needs and conditions in individual orphanages as I fly. Will send more just as soon as I can. I'd be very grateful if you'd forward this message to others who you think might care about the children.

Please be safe and warm and well….

Love and thanks,


Hello again,

Welfare institutions in south and central China are having the hardest time dealing with the weather disaster. This part of the country is simply not equipped to deal with extreme cold or heavy snow and ice. The most common critical problems are power outages, lack of safe drinking and cooking water, lack of fuel, diapers and public transportation. In many places where buses have stopped running, our Half the Sky nannies have been walking hours (in one case, 4 hours) along icy roads to get to the children. As conditions worsen, our nannies and teachers are remaining at the institutions day and night. They have given up the idea of going home to their own families for the holidays. They need quilts. They need warm clothing. They need coal, water, disposable diapers and food.

Here are the reports I have thus far, while in-flight. I will send more soon. Where you don’t see a report, either all is well or I don’t yet have information. I will tell you when we’ve heard from everyone. We’ve also given all the directors an emergency number to call when/if the situation changes.

Hunan Province –

Chenzhou has had no electricity or water for six days. They are relying on coal for heat and cooking. The supermarkets and banks are closed.
Staff is using personal money for baby food, diapers, coal and water.
Costs are rising due to shortages. They have a natural well which, thankfully, is not frozen. Even the older children are helping to fetch water. They have perhaps six days of food remaining. The local government is overwhelmed by the disaster and is unable to help much.

Shaoyang has seen heavy snow every day for 20 days. There is sufficient water and, for the moment, there is power, so the children are warm.
However, 5 of 6 power poles have been downed by weather. Only one stands and the institution fears it will fall as well, leaving them without electricity. Much of the rest of the city is already dark. Children and caregivers continue to work and play together. High school students are cramming for exams and trying to ignore the cold. Everyone prays that the power pole will continue to stand.

Yueyang also has no electricity. The one functioning power generator is being used in the children’s dormitory. They are relying on coal heat but the price has tripled in recent days. They are running out of food and have applied to the local Bureau of Civil Affairs for funds to buy more.
Our HTS nannies have been walking for hours to get to work, often slipping on the ice, “even though they try to be cautious.”

Xiangtan has had snow for the past 10 days. The main water pipe is “broken again.” There is no water for cooking right now but they do have electricity, coal and blankets. They are still able to buy food but prices have gone way up. Not all of the HTS nannies can get to work every day. They are keeping the programs going as well as they can and make sure that at least five nurturing nannies are there with the babies every day, along with the institution’s caregivers.

Jiangsu Province –

Changzhou has seen some heavy snows but the director reports that the children are fine. The director says that he’s doing his best to ensure that the children do not suffer. Public transportation is crippled by the snow and HTS nannies and teachers are waiting for hours to catch a bus for home or even walking home in the snowy dark.

Nanjing reports no problems at all despite the heavy snows. I tried to fly into Nanjing yesterday but it was not possible.

Anhui Province -

Chuzhou has both water and power. Only public transportation has failed.
HTS nannies and teachers are walking to work. They are leaving home extra early to be there for the children.

Guangxi Province –

Guilin has two broken HTS heater/air conditioners in the Infant Nurture rooms and they’ve asked us to replace. The rooms are very, very cold.
They ask for more soft matting for the floors and also snow boots for our HTS nannies who’ve been slipping and falling in the ice and snow as they come to work. They are so ill-equipped to handle severe weather.

Jiangxi Province –

Fuzhou lost power for a few days but now it is back to normal. The snow stopped a couple of days ago but now is falling again. The directors and HTS staff have gathered all the children into one big room to keep them warm. They’ve bought New Years clothes for the children and will have a party no matter how bad the weather. This year, however, the foster parents will stay home to keep the children safe. The institution has enough food and water. They want us to focus on those in more serious trouble and ask us please not to worry.

Jiujiang says they’ve never faced such bitter weather. They desperately need disposable diapers. Washable diapers cannot be dried. They need warm clothes, shoes, gloves hats quilts and warm mats for the floors.
They need medicine for infant coughs and colds.

Hubei Province –

Wuhan suffers heavy snows but they still have power. Heaters are working but there is no water for bathing. The local community has offered to take children in for the Chinese New Year and the institution feels this may be the best decision to keep them safe.

Huangshi reports that the freeze is so severe that all heater/air conditioners have stopped functioning. They need quilts and warm clothes for the children. They need disposable diapers. Several HTS nannies have fallen on the ice on their way to work and they need medicine to treat cuts and bruises.

Gathering these reports together makes me think about how careful we have always been at Half the Sky to maintain our focus on nurture and education programs. Ours is not a medical or relief organization. There are many wonderful groups who do that work. Probably the primary reason we’ve been able to accomplish so much and reach so many children is because we’ve maintained our focus on our core mission -- providing nurturing care for children who’ve lost their families..

But a moment like this really cannot be ignored. The tragedy of Hurricane Katrina in the US taught us that no matter how wealthy a country might be, its vulnerable citizens (old, poor, ill, and orphaned children) are the ones who suffer most when disaster strikes. Even as China seems to be entering the first world, a disaster like this is quite simply crippling.
We know that orphaned children will be among those who suffer the damage most.

I say this because I think we should break one of Half the Sky’s rules and, if there are sufficient funds raised in the Little Mouse Emergency Fund, we should offer relief (water, food, diapers, quilts, clothing) to any orphanage where children need help. Let’s see how this goes. If people are as generous as I think they might be, we will work with the provincial Bureaus of Civil Affairs in every hard-hit community, and offer assistance to all welfare institutions where there is need.

Please lend a hand, however you can. You can donate to the Little Mouse Emergency Fund by calling us in the US at +1-510-525-3377 or in Asia at
+852- 2520-5266 or by visiting us at Once there, you can click on “Donate Now”