Monday, January 31, 2011

Order In The Court

Today was our court date and with Laura being so far away - and us hearing good news (well as good as it can be during an investigation) - Meron and I had to hit Starbucks to celebrate alone...

The court time was initially scheduled for 10:00 am their time - and it got pushed back and pushed back and pushed back. I am sure that did nothing to help the stress of the situation. They finally heard our case and Laura said it was all of 3 minutes. They asked about 5 questions. Mostly "Yes" or "No" type things. And that was it. It was over.

So now we pray for MOWA to start handing out the letters approving the backlog of cases.

Oh... and by the way - Meron is faking it in these pictures. The barista did give her a little cup of hot chocolate on the house - which delighted Meron to death and prompted her to say to me:

"She hooked me up!"
But she wasn't really a fan! So we staged it cuz we knew mommy'd love it!

Big thanks to everybody who is praying us through this court date and wait...

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Long Day - Late Night

I know exactly how she feels...

Saturday, January 29, 2011

For The Kids Who Don't Have Any

"Meron - clean up the living room for me and we'll go outside to play with Cooper."

Tropical Storm Meron had hit our living room in full force and toys were all over the place. She's awesome at cleaning stuff up when asked - and plus she really wanted to go see our neighbor Cooper. So she dove right on it.

I heard the toy drawers sliding in and out, toys getting tossed in, Meron talking to her stuffed animals as she went. She spilled the crayons at one point, hollered "Sorry Daddy!" and kept on cleaning.

Finally I heard her shuffle in to the kitchen and she said:

"All done. And here is this bag."
She was carrying a Toy Story gift bag. I peeked inside... it was full of toys of hers.

Without me saying a word to her she looked up and said:
"I have a lot of toys. These are for the kids who don't have any."
And then she was all about heading outside to play with Cooper. And my heart was gigantically smiling.

I have been meaning to talk to her about this for a long time. It's a sacrificial thing we wanted her to start doing. But her heart beat mine to the punch.

Well played God. Well played...

Friday, January 28, 2011

Happy Birthday Laura!

Today was Laura's birthday. Oh - we celebrated before she left with some delishified ice cream cake picked out by Meron complete with candles and singing. Yep delishified. Not even sure what that means but ice cream cake has a way of making you make up your own words.

However - today is her actual birthday. And she is thousands of miles away. I wish I could hug her. I wish we could do a patented Hoffman family hug (they are the best). I wish I could tell her just how important she is to me, how much I need her and how important she is to Meron.

But she is thousands of miles away - being important to her second daughter.

What a birthday gift. God is so incredibly cool the way He works things out to continually help you remember that only HE is in charge. Look in the details of your life - you'll see Him.

And as a far away birthday present - I decided to braid Meron's hair!

KIDDING! There is absolutely no way I could ever pull that off... and if I did I am pretty sure I would quit everything else because I am not sure I could ever trump that accomplishment.

Holy cow her hair is long now! Thanking God tonight for ice cream cake, birthdays and awesome teachers willing to do Meron's hair for me!


Thursday, January 27, 2011

My Precious Big Girl

I miss Laura. A lot.

But I know what she is doing has God's hands all over it and I wouldn't trade these days for ANYTHING. And life goes on - even when you're pulling single parent duty.

So tonight Meron rolled with me to ECHO - the college age ministry that Laura and I are both involved with at our church. My guys in my ECHO Deeper group love her and she had a real blast during the opening worship and she KINDA behaved during the message on Jonah.

But what really got me was the worship at the end. She was sleepy - you could see it in her eyes. I was holding her and we were singing when she asked me to be let down.

I put her right in front of me and she was clapping when all of a sudden she raised both hands straight up to praise God.

Oh. My. Gosh.

My heart about jumped out of my chest and it took all I had to keep some big ole man tears from falling.

It was short-lived... 20 seconds or so. But probably the most precious thing I have seen in a while. Laura and I have prayed daily since before Meron was home for God to be working in her heart and for the Holy Spirit to wrap her up early in life.

I think it is happening. And I am blessed by it.

The King (and me too) is enthralled with this girl's beauty...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Going Back to Africa

After more than a year of paperwork and mostly waiting and praying - we hit one of the milestones in our journey to LH3! Laura boarded a plane today for Ethiopia for our court date! I am staying home with the Meronator while Laura does the work for us in country.

She brought along her mom and a great friend Tamara and they'll also be putting in some work as the hands and feet while they are there - visiting Korah, our partner orphanage and some other spots.

It was tough to say goodbye after just being home a few weeks - but I couldn't be more proud to be married to this girl who loves God, loves orphans and loves putting in work in His name. I am crazy blessed.

Meron struggled with it a little bit more - she was crying for her mommy before we left the airport! But the day got better and we had an awesome night together. The girl is 3 - and I kid you not - this was what she prayed tonight before dinner:

"Dear God, thank you for mommy. Thank you for safe travel. Thank you for time spent with my daddy tonight. In Jesus name. Amen."
And after dinner I told her she could go play or do whatever she wanted while i cleaned up the kitchen and her ridiculously adult-like response was this:
"Ummm... actually I'd rather help you."



I've started to just roll with it - she's just smarter than I am - I'll learn to deal with it.

Thanking God tonight for blessings in the shape of wives and kids. We should never overlook them...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Big Girl Stuff

Meron had a pretty good week of "big girl" stuff this week. First it was a dentist visit and now... the big girl bed!

She is pretty pumped tonight and wants to show everybody who comes through the bed.

Meron summed up her feelings pretty well the other day when she was sprawled out on her bed and she yelled:

"I just love my bed!"

Monday, January 24, 2011

Day 5: Genocide and Imbabazi

We woke up on Day 5 still a little behind on our compressed schedule. The one thing that was at risk of being cut out of the agenda was our visit to the Genocide Memorial in Kigali. We all agreed that this was something super important for us to see - so before packing up for the 3 hour bus ride to Gisenyi - we decided to stop for a quicker tour of the memorial.

I think we were all glad we did.

The memorial is located on the spot of a mass grave. Some 250,000 bodies were found and rest here at this location. Rows and rows of concrete bunker-looking things mark the graves. A few have glass windows built in to actually allow you to see the coffins inside.

The genocide is VERY young (1994) and people still visit and place flowers to honor those killed during that time.

The inside was set up like a museum and told the story of the genocide and the events leading up to it. I think this visit was a huge part of this trip for us - it really put in to perspective what the people of Rwanda had experienced and allowed us a glimpse into just how huge of an atrocity they had managed to overcome in such a short time.

One of the rooms just had thousands and thousands of pictures of victims. It was extremely sobering to sit in there and just let the faces cross your mind. Something of this magnitude is almost impossible for your mind and spirit to comprehend. We did the best we could...

The last room I visited inside was dedicated to the children of the genocide. I knew this one would get me - every little face shown, every little picture displayed, every little story shared - they all seemed to make me think of Meron or LH3 and I had a seriously hard time with it. I do feel like God was there with us - knowing we needed to see this and understand this and helping us process it a bit. In the end - He revealed to us - through these resilient people - just how important forgiveness is to Him.

After the last of us wandered out of the memorial - we all piled on the bus for a BEAUTIFUL 3 hour drive through the Rwandan mountains. What a great way to follow up what we had just visited. It was a pretty quiet ride as most of us were still processing what we had just seen and learned.

We made it to Gisenyi with just enough time to check in to our guest house there and pile back on the bus to head to our next ministry stop - the Imbabazi Orphanage.

This was an AMAZING place located on 110 acres in the foothills of the mountains that are home to the endangered mountain gorillas.

The landscape here was gorgeous and consisted of several flower fields where they grew flowers and the kids harvested these to make bouquets for sale in nearby Gisenyi and even Kigali. We were all pretty impressed.

The original orphanage was still on the property and was being restored and turned in to a computer lab for the kids. The incredible folks running this place are seriously dedicated to the continuing education of the kids - and trying to help them create career opportunities for themselves.

I think several of us were pretty surprised to see a basketball court there! Not the normal site where "Futbol" reigns supreme. Some previous Americans who had visited had a son who loved basketball and just couldn't even believe there was a place where basketball wasn't played and had paid for this half court to be put in. There were some pretty good players there too!

It was new years eve when we visited and though we had initially planned on staying to bring in the new years with the kids - our driver had other plans. The road in to the orphanage was a VERY scary drive and he was pretty clear about wanting to be out on it before dark.

No problem - FLEXIBILITY being our rule of thumb - we just celebrated new years eve early witht hem!

So as darkness fell (and it fell quick!) we said our goodbyes and piled back on tot he bus. Though our time was WAY too short with these guys - these kids and this entire operation left a huge impression on us.

Imbabazi Orphanage is a beautiful place that I am 100% sure I will be back to one day.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Superbowl Bound

Growing up right outside of Pittsburgh - you'd think I'd be a gigantic Steelers fan. I am really not. I actually pulled for the Oakland Raiders as a kid.

But with Meron going as Polamalu for Halloween we have started to pay more attention to them (and him in particular). We dig his hair. We dig him as a person. So now... we kinda dig the Steelers. We're not fair-weather fans. More like fair-hair fans.

So tonight - we busted out the jerseys in support of them.

Favorite quote of the night - we're on our way to church rocking our jerseys and Meron says from the backseat:

"Daddy - when do I get to put my hair down like Troy?"
Love it...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Granny Goes to Africa

Meron's granny will be getting on a plane in a few days with Laura to head to Africa. She'll get to visit LH3. She'll get to visit Brighton's grave. She'll get to stand in the country that her grandchildren were born in.

We are SO EXCITED for her. We've been praying about an opportunity like this for her - for a long time.

Granny - we're supper excited for you! Won't you join us in praying for her trip?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Who Does That?

Who comes flying down a slide this direction? Upside down and head first?

Meron does... of course!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Can't Tell Ya How Much...

Man - I can not even begin to tell you how much I missed these two while I was in Africa. I love Africa. A lot. But Africa without my team - well - it's not nearly as lovable.

I know I am slacking on my daily updates. I don't wanna rush them. Please stay tuned... they are coming!!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Truckloads of Formula

Wow - that's a mountain of formula and blankets soon to be headed to babies in need in Ethiopia!

Thanks so much Shades Mountain Baptist Church for partnering up with Brighton Their World.

You're saving lives!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Say "Ahhhhhh"

Meron had a BIG GIRL moment yesterday as she had her first dental exam! The Hoffmans all got A+ reviews and Meron's teeth count was at 20!

Way to go big girl!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Days 3 & 4: I Believe I Can Fly

6:30 AM meeting time in the lobby of our hotel could only mean one thing - we were FINALLY heading to Africa. Since both teams were flying out on the same flight - we had to start early to shuttle all the bodies and luggage to the airport.

Yeah - we're talking something like 38 people with 2 checked bags each and 2 carry on items each. Lots of luggage. Lots of people. Too early in the morning.

But with Ethiopian Airlines there is no such thing as "too early." These guys - God Bless them - mess up flights just about every single time. So it's just standard to build in enough time to walk them through getting us on our plane - and we needed it.

After some wrangling - some bargaining - a little arguing - some showering with kindness... we all made it on the flight! Had to do a little extra work at the gate to make sure my whole team had connecting seats to Kigali - but we were here and ready to fly out.

Like how the gate said "on time."?? NOT the case - I think we took off about 1.5 hours late. Yep - hadn't even left DC yet and we were officially on African time!

We managed to grab one gigantic group shot of both teams before we boarded the plane. That's a lot of people going out to love on some orphans in God's name! I love these guys!

Being a team leader had a few perks to go along with the stress - business class seats was one of them! Yep - that's right - I was suffering for the Lord!

Not only did my first class seats have a little bit more leg room but I also had the distinct privilege of sitting directly behind R. Kelly. How funny is that? He was flying to Ethiopia to perform for the their big New Years Eve party. That's his head and his gigantic headphones that he wore pretty much the entire time.

I wanted to ask him to sing "I Believe I Can Fly" as we took off but I was chicken. For the record... he snores.

We were lucky enough to be flying on one of the airline's new 777 jets - so 12 hours later - with no stop in Rome - we touched down in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Man... it just felt like home. It's crazy how a place so far away can hold so much of your heart. But we didn't get to enjoy it for long - we were late and they were holding our connecting flight to Rwanda for us - so we hustled off the plane and off to our next gate.

After a quick 2.5 hour flight we were touching down in Kigali, Rwanda. WOW! This place was beautiful. Ethiopia - though it holds my heart very tightly - isn't the prettiest place on the planet. It's very brown. Not Rwanda! There was so much greenery, so many rolling hills, so much beauty. I think we were all loving it!

After our delay leaving DC we were already behind on our schedule. So after meeting our awesome guide, Jane, we headed straight to the guest house to check in and then piled back in the bus to head to our first ministry opportunity.

Our first stop in Rwanda was with the Best Family. This ministry is made up of guys who were orphaned during the genocide and banded together to take care of each other. They became a family to one another and have since taken in kids who have nobody else and help raise them, educate them and introduce them to God. LOVE THIS MINISTRY.

They met us at our bus when we pulled up and walked us down a beautiful trail to their main house. There they served us sodas and gave us an overview of what they were doing - how they were accomplishing it - and what needs they saw themselves having over the next weeks, months and years.

After that we all walked together down to the school that they use where the kids were all waiting for us. They gave us an awesome show of some of their skills - dancing, rapping, acting. These guys are talented!

After the talent show - we broke out some sports equipment, some face paint and other activities and just went at it! Doing what we do best - playing, loving, hugging and visiting orphans!

These kids were all awesome and we couldn't get enough of them.

It was really cool to walk around and see the team members falling right in line and doing what God had placed on their hearts from the beginning - just being Him to these kids. Loving them. Hugging them. Playing with them. My heart was smiling HUGE.

I got a short amount of time to hang out with Jean Claude - the director of the Best Family - and hear about his needs, his vision and his passion. He is an incredible guy doing some incredible work.

The sun set WAY too early for us - we wanted so much more time with these guys. That's the only downfall to these short term trips. You are in and out so quickly. So after a lot of hugs and a sad goodbye - we headed back to the bus to head out.

We were coming off of 15+ hours of travel that went straight in to ministry and we were WHOOPED. A quick dinner out (rice, beans - kinda a staple here!) wrapped up the night and we headed back to the guest house to crash.

My heart was happy. We were finally back in Africa!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Big Haired Beauty

We interrupt the trip updates to bring you this big haired beauty!

Come back tomorrow for Day 3 and Day 4 updates!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Day 2: Flexibility is the Key Word

When it comes to short-term mission trips, or mission trips in general, or heck - maybe just travel to Africa period - FLEXIBILITY is the key word. We had been stressing this over and over and over through our conference calls and Day 2 allowed us to put it into action.

We found out that our plane that was to be carrying two of our teams to Africa was experiencing a malfunction of some sort. Yikes. So instead of getting up early and heading to the airport - we found ourselves with another whole day to kill in Washington DC.

We spent the morning meeting together with the other team for some introductions, prayer and worship. It was a great way to kick off the day and an excellent attempt at making lemonade out of the lemons. The lemonade tasted great.

The rest of the day was free to be killed however we wanted. Some of the team went to explore DC while others hung out and got to know each other and rested.

Dinner that night was supposed to be with both teams but we decided to break off and go at it alone so we could start to bond as a team. The suggestion came up for us to hit Chuck E. Cheese. And I loved the idea!

Not sure everybody on the team was feeling it - but I thought it was a GREAT way to spend time together and allow us to "be a kid." We were about to head out into the field to love on kids, play with kids and try to see them as God sees them - as super precious commodities to His kingdom.

The world does so much to us as we grow in to adults to take away the simple things God loves. What better way to connect with a kid than to try and get back in that mind state ourselves? A few pizzas, sodas and a TON of games later and we were starting to feel like kids again.

After that it was back to the hotel to get ready for the next day. Satan had attacked us a few times already on some pretty big fronts - it got me thinking about how big of an impact our teams were about to go make in God's name.

So after spending some time in prayer with a few other team members and by myself - I headed off to bed because tomorrow we were heading to Africa (for real this time!).