December 18, 2009
Dear Family and Friends,
As I (Joy) look at the rapidly-advancing calendar, I realize that composing a Christmas letter is 'now or never.' It has been such an eventful year and God has been so amazing that I must get it in writing.
As you may recall, Kevin and I spent Christmas 2008 in Kiev, Ukraine working on the adoption of Steven, who has Down syndrome like our son Caleb. (Thanks to all who helped "make the season bright" for our kiddos at home.) (1) Because of the holidays and (2) because we were the first to adopt from his particular orphanage and (3) because it was the first international adoption from the corresponding district's court, we were unable to get an adoption court date set prior to our departure on Dec. 31. We did have the amazing opportunity, however, to meet with a very courageous group of parents there in Kiev who have chosen to lovingly raise their little ones with DS rather than abandon them at birth as is the 'norm' in that culture.
Spring Break in March found Kevin and me, B, S, T and J joining others from Idaho for a MAPS trip to Mexico. This was our kids' first time out of the country. Caleb stayed in the US with a couple from our church. In Mexico Kevin got to help lay bunches of tile in a church auditorium, play guitar with the Hagerman Assembly praise band, and preach with Pastor Tellez from Hagerman interpreting. The kids and I painted the church fellowship hall; after that our main job was to be willing to do whatever needed to be done--sweeping, carrying tile, helping mix the grout, etc. S sang at two different church services and I got to speak briefly to a group of students at a church-school. Overall, I was very proud of our children's very helpful attitudes and their lack of complaining.
I will be forever thankful that on May 24 and 25 we drove to the Boise area to visit Kevin's Grandma Dorothy B in the hospital. She has always been so spry and alert, so interested in her grand-children and great grandchildren and so fun to be around. She had fallen a couple months earlier and broken her arm but I had assumed she was recovering well. Instead she was dealing with complications from her injury. (It was my last time to see her. She passed away a month later while I was in Ukraine at the age of 91.) Also while in Boise we got to see Kevin's sisters P and J and their families.
When we got home on May 25 we found out that we were scheduled for court on June 1 in Kiev---so on May 30 Kevin, T and I were flying out of Boise. I will leave to your imagination the craziness of preparing for international travel in 5 days besides shopping for and hosting a birthday party for B, J and Caleb (all June babies) on May 28. J rode with us as far as the Boise airport and spent nearly two weeks with his birth sister in her wonderful adoptive home.
Just prior to flying we'd found out that our court date had been re-scheduled for June 3 but--praise God!!-- we decided to fly as planned. Due to plane problems we ended up not even arriving in Kiev until later June 1. On June 5 we officially became parents of Steven Mikhyal McClain. Kevin flew home on June 11. T was such a trooper there with me in Ukraine as we waited for all the legal paperwork to be completed (and S was a trooper at home because Kevin became dreadfully sick with a strep infection and gout.) T and I had the great privilege of meeting 6 other Reece's Rainbow couples while in Kiev. Between us, 10 children with Down syndrome were rescued from life--and death--in a Ukrainian mental institution. We ran into many, many roadblocks in our adoption process but we KNEW what God had called us to do. Finally on July 3 Steven became a US citizen as we returned to American soil.
On May 30 my brother M and his wife K celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary at Shoshone Assembly of God. (I was SO sorry to miss it.) On July 25th Mom and Dad (W and J) celebrated their 50th at Hansen Assembly of God. It was a wonderful day. Kevin and I are still the newlyweds--15 years for us. Mom, Dad, M, K, Kevin and I went on a lovely Snake River dinner cruise in honor of all of our anniversaries on August 28.
My cousin Dan (Aunt Berta's son) attended my parents' anniversary celebration but honestly looked horrible. He went in and got blood transfusions and I wrongly assumed they solved the problem. On August 11 we heard that he might be admitted to the hospital yet that night, on Aug 12 he was unresponsive and on August 13 his spirit moved to Jesus' house. Dan was only 51 but many of you might recall that he'd had a kidney transplant several years ago; apparently he hadn't been feeling well for quite some time. I am happy for Dan but sad for me. I miss his joking and his musical talent. I will also miss celebrating our birthdays together--same date, different year. (I am MUCH, MUCH younger! Grin.)
August 31 was the 1st day of school for our big kids. B is 15 and in the 9th grade. He enjoyed dissecting in science, going on his class trip to Yellowstone Park in September and putting up Christmas lights in his classroom.. S is 13 and in the 8th grade. Her favorite classes are agriculture and keyboarding. She says she likes her family, her friends coming over, and going to church. T is 13 and in the 7th grade. Her favorite class is experimental science; she enjoys reading and dogs. J is 11 and in the 6th grade. He is totally obsessed with Star Wars--the books, the Lego building sets, the figures and particularly the weapons. His favorite school subject is History. Caleb and Steven's preschool started Sept 9. Both of them are 5 and they attend class M-F afternoons. My Mom just recently described these two as "God's gift to our family." They are truly precious but they do keep me hopping trying to keep up with their mess-making skills. It is fun to observe their speech, language, physical, play, and self-help skills developing.
God has given me a huge passion for orphans. I had the privilege of volunteering with Christian Alliance for Orphans to promote Orphan Sunday on Nov. 8. In conjunction with that I facilitated an orphan/adoption awareness workshop at our church on Sat, Nov. 7 with the help of our social worker, Dixie Tate from A New Beginning Adoption Agency. Did you know there are an estimated 143,000,000 orphans in the world? Did you know it would take over 4 1/2 YEARS just to speak the name of each of these precious children at the rate of one per second? These statistics tear at my heart.
On Nov 27 Kevin and I took off for Jamaica. 21 years ago I was invited to spend a year with Erick and Joyce Kaiser then-missionaries to Jamaica as Bro. Kaiser's secretary. This year New Life Assembly in Kingston--which Bro. Kaiser founded-- was celebrating 25 years. We were invited to join in their thanksgiving for the amazing things God has done. We spent 9-10 hours in church on November 29 and it was "WOW!" I haven't cried that much in a long time. The church has just exploded in size and ministry under the continued Spirit-led ministry of Pastor Robb (who was also the pastor 21 years ago) and that day dedicated a new wing and broke ground for a day care. Kaisers were there as well and it was wonderful to spend time with them again along with their pastors and their grandson/wife. Kevin and I also had three very fun and relaxing days in Ocho Rios. By the way, the money exchange rate there is $1 US = $85 J!! I love math but dividing by 85 is not my strong suite. Kevin was extremely brave and drove our rental car from the airport to Kingston, on to Ocho Rios and Montego Bay, back to Kingston and returned it in one piece. Remember, they drive on the left so this is a challenge (as is converting kilometers to miles, liters to gallons, etc.) It's a good thing he drives professionally for UPS Freight.
We got home from Jamaica in the wee hours of Saturday, Dec 5. We immediately plunged from balmy, tropical weather into snow, ice and the Christmas season. That morning I had a mandatory choir rehearsal and that afternoon we got out our Christmas decorations and began adorning the house. Dec. 6 was the annual Community Christmas Concert "One Quiet Night" with participants from 4 area churches. I had fun singing alto beside my mom. Dec. 7 was S's Christmas band concert--she is playing clarinet again. Dec. 13 was our kids' Christmas program at church--the girls were angels and the boys were all shepherds. Dec. 15 was the Elementary Christmas Program--Caleb and Steven's class performed 3 songs and J made his debut on the trumpet playing "Jingle Bells." The kids all ended up getting out of school about 11:30 am on Thursday the 17th because a truck ran into a power pole and plunged our town into darkness. Friday, of course, was their last day before Christmas break. Our church's Adult Christmas Candlelight Dinner/Choir is scheduled for Dec. 20. Dec. 21 my parents, M's family, and our family are meeting at the Loon Hing, a Chinese restaurant in Twin Falls. Dec. 22 our family is planning an evening at Mom and Dad's house here in H. And on Christmas Day the extended family is to be at our house for dinner at 2:00 pm.
Well, as you can see 2009 has been an unusually full year for us. God has blessed us beyond anything we can ever deserve. But the greatest GIFT He ever gave was His one and only Son Jesus whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. The Bible says simply: "He who has the Son has life. He who does not have the Son does not have life." May we choose LIFE.
We love you all,
Kevin, Joy, B, S, T, J, Steven and Caleb